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tv   News Sessions Senate Testimony  MSNBC  June 13, 2017 11:00am-2:08pm PDT

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the burr/warner committee, senate intelligence committee, under their leadership, will be gaveled into order in about 30 minutes. among those watching with us, nicolle wallace is here. nicolle, there's no other way to put it, this takes place during a fraught period of time. >> an unbelievable period of time. rod rosenstein who became famous for writing the memo which became fodder for a couple of news cycles, for the firing of james comey. i just wrote down the words he used to describe whether or not they would consider removing bob mueller. this sessions testimony comes in the storm that's been created by the trump team. they are in the crisis creation business. we come on the air again in the middle of a crisis, of team trump's own creation about whether or not mueller's job is safe. so i think sessions will take --
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will appear before this hearing at another incredibly fraught, as you said, moment for the trump white house. >> let's talk about the substance of what has so far been leaks, kind of floated notions, rumors that the president would look at the special counsel's job the way he looked at deputy at justice, the way he looked at comey's job, something that he could terminate. >> right. and you wouldn't give it any credence if it were a normal white house. because this was a friends of the president, chris rudde, who runs a conservative news media outlook. he floated it out. maybe newt gingrich came out first with this specter of maybe removing bob mueller. and this is the way they have floated other things. this is the way donald trump lets information sort of seep out. and again, a normal white house keeps things close to the vest. the trump operation floats these
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trial balloons. they like to watch the breast whiplash back and forth chasing a story that may or may not be true. but the consequence when you're in the government and not on a campaign is people serving in the justice department, like rod rosenstein who had to earlier today testify whether there were any circumstances under which he would consider removing special counsel bob mueller. >> kasie hunt is standing by on capitol hill with a preview of what to expect. k kasie? >> reporter: brian, we are here again at the same back door to the same hearing room where james comey testified before the senate intelligence committee. today we'll hear from jeff sessions. a couple of key questions today will be on that potential third meeting between jeff sessions and the russian ambassador. we know that there were originally two that he had in his official capacity as senator that were not disclosed when he
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went into the trump administration. then we know there is classified intelligence per nbc reporting that this third meeting may have taken place at the mayflower hotel. i think you can expect a lot of questions from senators on that. second, and i think very critical here, is questions about sessions' role, or lack thereo thereof, in the firing of jim comey. i think that's something you'll see him pressed on, as wrel as those conversations that jim comey said he had with the attorney general. you remember from that very detailed testimony, him talking about how jeff sessions lingered by his chair when the president asked to speak to comey alone. comey implying that this made him feel very uncomfortable and incontin intimidat intimidated. then later on he reported that he told the attorney general not to leave him alone with the president again. this means there would be two separate accounts under oath of the same conversation.
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they likely both can't be correct, so that's another thing to watch for. then finally, the justification if sessions decides he's not going to answer questions, does he invoke executive privilege. you'll remember -- i think it was two weeks ago now -- though the days are moving so fast that i sometimes am losing track of the time -- whether we saw the intelligence chiefs testify and they didn't, when pressed, have any legal justification for refusing to answer these senators' questions. as you know, brian, that's pretty much the quickest way to get them angry. >> kasie hunt, thank you. hallie jackson is across town at the white house. again, everything is moving very quickly. hallie is inside the briefing room. hallie? >> reporter: brian, in just the last couple of minutes i heard marine one lifting out from the south lawn just outside where we are in the white house. the president of course is on his way to wisconsin. he and his administration want to talk about everything except for what is happening on the hill right now.
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you've got the president meeting with senators with a health care lunch. the vooiice president is on the hill right now talking health care with his former republican colleagues in congress. you have other members of the administration talking about everything from veterans affairs to tax reform to workplace development, as well. the white house wants to be talking about the republican agenda, particularly with time running out until the july 4th break. that said, there is a sense they know that this -- as some of them call "russia stuff," the russia piece of this puzzle is not going anywhere. it is why so often they are kicking these questions to outside counsel. the trial balloon from chris rudde today regarding the possible firing, maybe, perhaps, of bob mueller, was certainly significant. when it comes to a strategy perspective, watch for a lot of what we saw last thursday at the comey hearing. right? i think you are going to see republicans throughout the afternoon day say, hey, listen, jeff sessions was eager to testify openly. he wanted to come out and do this not behind closed doors but
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in full view of the american public. that shows that the trump administration, the argument goes, has nothing to hide. i've also heard from gop strategist types that there will likely be an effort to paint this as a smear campaign by democrats and members of the media as well. >> hallie jackson at the white house, nicolle wallace, i don't know why i'm looking at you. some of this regarding the agenda, the trump agenda, is ultimately up to the trump administration. >> it is up to the trump administration and it's interesting to sort of rewind the tape and remind everyone why we're here. jeff sessions came up in a way that i think surprised some of us last week in the comey testimony, which we all watched together, in that comey made very clear that he knew exactly why, and that jeff sessions would end up being recused from the russia probe. we press our nose against the glass and take these things as they happen in the moment, but this is all against the backdrop of jim comey believing that he
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was fired because of the president's displeasure with the way he was running the russia investigation. it comes amid the backdrop of jeff sessions having recused himself, something we know from great reporting from "the new york times" and "washington post" and our own network, is sorts of viewed by the president as maybe an error in judgment. the president is not happy that jeff sessions recused himself from the russia probe. but jeff sessions who was once among the senate decided that once he had had that blunder, once he had appeared before the senate for his own confirmation hearings and had to admit that he had either misremembered or, for other reasons that we don't quite understand, not reported all of the contacts that he had with russians, got himself ensnared in this bigger story. >> we're also joined here in the studio by paul butler, former justice department prosecutor, and then some, who's now with georgetown law. ari melber is here with us at the table. katy tur is here with us at the table. so the gang's all here. paul butler, given your expert
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eye, what will you be looking for in terms of questions, and what's maybe an early marker as to what sessions' satank, how h views his task today? >> how forthcoming is he going to be? the first time he testified before the senate was at his confrmco confirmation hearing and i did not tell the truth. he was asked by al franken. people on the armed services committee don't meet with russians. he was the only senator who did. so you'd think he should remember that. so he's got some explaining to do. two areas. collusion with russians, and obstruction of justice. collusion, he's got to ask those questions if he's pressed. no executive privilege there. obstruction, there are lots of questions about his conversations with comey, whether when comey complained about the president, what did sessions do?
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he may claim executive privilege for those. >> ari melber, i think this is a first. an attorney general appearing on a topic about which he is recused. >> it is awkward, to say the least. it is legally difficult for him to walk this line, although according to the justice department and the trump white house, he now does want to walk this line because he wants to at least address some of these things. i think if we take a step back and actually put the legalese to the side, jim comey told a story last week, and it was a story about lies, as he put it, defamation, as he put it, and a white house led by a president who did not respect the rule of law and the traditions thereof. he didn't say whether that lack of respect delved into criminal conduct. he said he would stay out of the way. i think what it is up to jeff sessions to do today is to tell his side of the story, which what we've been told, what we expect, is about a plan who did recu recuse, who did try to get out
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of the way and who may have his own details about trying to educate or normalize some of what this white house was doing. so i think there are some details that may not amount to lies or someone's got to be lying, but different shadings of this story. >> earlier we heard from the deputy attorney general, rod rosenstein, a man whose name is known in a lot more households than it normally would have been known in. and we haven't heard the last of rod rosenstein. questioned about a lot of things, but among them the possibility that donald trump would fire bob mueller, the special counsel. we'll play a bit of that, talk about it on the other side. >> at this point, have you seen any evidence of good cause for firing of special counsel muler? >> no, i have not. >> and have you given the special counsel full independence from the justice department to conduct his investigation? >> yes, senator. i appreciate that question. the short answer is, though, that that regulation, as you may know, was written and implemented during the clinton
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administration under the authority of attorney general reno. i know the folks who wrote that. they wrote it to deal with these sort of situations, and i am confident that he will have sufficient independence. it certainly is theoretically possible that the attorney general could fire him. but that's the only person who has authority to fire him. in fact, the chain of command for the special counsel is only directly to the attorney general -- or in this case the acting attorney general. so nobody else in the department would have the authority to do that and you have my assurance we'll faithly follow that regulation and attorney general mueller will have the full authority he needs to conduct that investigation thoroughly. >> that was paul butler drawing a line in the sand from rod rosenstein. >> he was a man of integrity. i worked with him as baby prosecutor. we kind of worked together. we were really taught to set politics aside. now he's in this weird position where he's working for the president and for attorney
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general sessions. it's kinds of like if your boss asked you to write a note about someone, an employee evaluation. you don't think that the employee is doing a great job but you know your boss is going to use this note that you write to fire the guy. so that's what he -- that's the position he was in. today i heard some waffling about whether he really thought that comey should have been fired. but when you read that memo he wrote, it is pretty clear that he thought comey needed to go. >> of course, ari, that memo was the underpinning for the firing of comey, later rescinded by the president in the lester holt interview. >> that's correct, brian. that's an area that's going to be difficult for jeff sessions because you can't claim something is privileged that has already been released to the public. it is no longer private. and yet the memo and the sessions letter suggested a chain of events that no longer are believed to be true because of the president's own words. so even if you are a donald
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trump fan and you want to believe the best version of events, in this case it would only be, brian, the most recent version of events, which is the latest description from donald trump over why he fired jim comey. not the underlying description. then that raises a second point which rachel maddow an our air and other reporters have raised, which is even if the first explanation were true, it was citing campaign matters, which the attorney general said he would be recused from. so i expect to hear more discussion of recusal here in this hearing that americans are ever normally accustomed to. recusal just means staying out of the way because you have a conflict. did he do that or not. >> you're watching on the left-hand side. very familiar green aircraft. that is marine one. shortly we will see president trump take the short walk down those steps and over to air force one for a flight out to milwaukee. so notably he will be airborne while the hearing gets under
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way, as daughter ivanka right there behind him. there is the hearing room on the right. our justice correspondent, pete williams, is among those watching and listening with us, as he always is. and, pete, give us a viewer's guide, if you don't mind me asking, what people should watch and listen for. an indication that if he says, x, that may mean y is true. >> i think one big question that's going to come up, it came up this morning with rod rosenstein, what exactly did the attorney general, when he recused on march 2nd and said he was not going to take part in the russia investigation, what does that mean? the recusal statement that the attorney general gave is he would not take part in any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the united states. so dozen, for example, that include the clinton e-mail case?
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that's important because of what you were just talking about. the rod rosenstein memo to the president about why james comey should be fired was about the clinton handling of the clinton e-mail case. so that's going to be the first question i think, brian. one of -- maybe not the first but one of the big questions is what did you recuse from. why given that did you take part in the firing of mr. comey. now the answer the justice department has given in the past is, it was about comey's overall performance, not about any specific thing. another question will be the meeting that -- the question about how many times did he meet with the russians, and was he fully forthcoming. he's already talked about two meetings. there's been an allegation that there was a third early last year when jeff sessions was still a senator, and an enthusiast supporter of donald trump. there's some suggestion that the russians were reporting back that there was such a meeting to their superiors. but the justice department has aggressively said, we went back
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and check the records. we find no indication of any such meeting. so that's going to be another question. how independent should mr. comey be, what was his response when mr. comey said, please, make sure i don't get stuck anymore alone with the president. mr. comey said last week that sessions never responded to that. the justice department has said, no, f w, no, sessions made it c to everybody about how things are supposed to be communicated between the white house and the justice department. so he wants to respond directly to some of the things that comey said last week. and the members of the senate want to get into some of these other questions that i've dealt with, such as the whole recusal thing and exactly what is he recused from, what's he not taking part in. i think you're right, this is the first time an attorney general has testified about something he's recused from while he's recused from it. >> it is a narrow area of law to keep records on, pete. >> but janet reno did recuse herself from the waco
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investigation, and as a matter of fact, appointed the very first special prosecutor under this law, john danforth. she ultimately did testify about it, but it was after the danforth investigation was done. >> see? and i knew you'd know that. i don't know what that says about either of us, me for asking for you for knowing the answer. >> that's why we don't get more invitations to parties. >> exactly. in this case, pete is speaking for both of us. pete williams, our veteran justice correspondent in our washington bureau. and thank god we have him. katy tur, over to you. number one, we're going to have a president airborne, at least for the start of this. number two, as you know better than most, a president who has proven capable of anything while on the aircraft or on the ground. and number three, another high-tension day of testimony. >> yeah. and the white house is feeling -- they do feel vindicated somewhat by the comey testimony last week. they're not quite sure what is going to happen with jeff
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sessions. but from everyone that i have spoke with -- spoken with who is close to the president, they don't believe that there is any fire here. they don't really believe that there is much smoke here, either. they still cannot point to a single piece of evidence or an example of any collusion or coordination that might be out there. the mueller stuff is what is really intriguing to me right now. and just where that is coming from. we have christopher rudde, as nicolle was talking about a motion ago, going on air. we know christopher rudde talks to donald trump. we know donald trump is someone who doesn't like to have anyone over his head. he doesn't like the idea of somebody being able to render a verdict on him. it is not completely out of character, this idea that he might want to fire the special prosecutor. but i was talking to somebody who is very close to the president and somebody who knows his mind. and he was telling me that he just doesn't see that as something that he would do.
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then again, very few people thought he would fire the fbi director. so there is that. also, a little bit of breaking news to report. donald trump's personal lawyer, michael cohen, has been called to testify. he's responded to a subpoena affirmatively to testify in front of the house intelligence committee on september 5th. that's according to a source with knowledge of it. it was first reported by bloomberg. >> back up one detail. september 5th. >> september 5th. >> why? >> i -- i don't know why it is going to be that much farther down the line. the house right now -- house intel committee will not comment on this. >> we'll be talking about football season by then. i'm looking at nicolle -- >> they'll be on recess for the summer. >> listen. one of the things that i understand to be happening for a lot of the folks that are wanted on capitol hill, i put jared kushner in this category, too -- is that they have big, complicated sets of facts, and they have been now part of multiple organizations. at least in jared kushner's
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case, he was part of the trump campaign. has a set of calendars, contacts, and meetings and e-mails pass a campaign person on whatever system he functioned. then he was part of the trump transition, had a set of contacts and phone calls and meetings under a different set of probably ethics and laws. and now he's been a white house official. so i don't know if the same sort of buckets apply to someone like michael cohen. but any good lawyer wants to get their arms around the facts before they march their client up to capitol hill. >> remember, michael cohen was named in that dossier, that unconfirmed dossier. at least to portions that have not been confirmed. he's had to come out multiple times and try to push back on that showing at first the front cover of his passport to try and prove that he was not in europe for the various meetings in prague that that dossier had listed him as, saying he was at usc with his son. then coming out showing the interior portions of his passport to buzzfeed. so he has pushed back as much as he can on that. it is going to be illuminating
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to try and find out what he is going to say and see what he is going to say. he's been a part of donald trump's life and close confidant of his now for years. a combative part of donald trump's life. and seeing him testify should be unlike anything we've seen now with these politicians. >> we're going to need a good answer on the september 5 date though from the standpoint of a republican-controlled committee. that's going to be interesting. peter alexander is in the kind of glassed-off press booth that is just above the floor of this hearing room. kind of a unique set-up in hart 216 that allow people like peter to look exactly like that with the deck behind him. peter, i see that this is very familiar scene now. still photographers have formed a semi-circle around the desk. they'll be able to get their shots when the attorney general comes in. he'll be sworn in, and then everybody has to go to their corners. >> brian, sort of like the old
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guy in the muppet movie keeping a close eye on what's taking place. photographers are claiming their spaces, here in anticipation of this hearing since early this morning. what's so striking to me, you were just talking about that september 5th date for the president's personal attorney, michael cohen, to testify in september, is just how much of the focus we have with today's hearing, with the leehearing fo the fired fbi director james comey has not been focused on the whole predicate, the potential for collusion with russia, collusion between trump campaign associates and russia itself. the trump xaadministration and e president's team handling of this investigation. we're still in effect dealing with the side show that's been caused by what many critics would suggest is the mishandling that ultimately led to the need for a special counsel dating back to the comments by james comey last week where he spoke about feeling uncomfortable in his private conversations with the president, that he communicated that to the
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attorney general, jeff sessions. today what i think we'll be watching, among other things, is the fact that at the end of this day the president in a way is going to be tied to jeff sessions' version of events. he's likely to invoke executive privilege for some of the conversation related to the two of them, but as it pertains to the conversations he may have had with james comey and beyond that, all of a sudden you had the he said/he said between president trump and james comey. well, it will be interesting, because it is unlikely those versions of events are going to match up the entire way, which side you find sessions on, and some point there is the potential for two hes on one side, another he on the other. >> peter alexander, who as we said, is just high above the hearing room there. as we get set for the arrival of members of the senate. you see now, senate staff will come in, along with members of the sflaenate. they will take their seats. there is is a minder there on the floor that works for the
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senate press gallery, and they will be kind of corralling moment bers of the medimmed members of the media. >> i was thinking about katy talking about the white house posture, there's all this smoke, never any fire. well, we are here over and over again because there is no one who manages to remember all their contacts with russians. i heard this, too, this morning, more smoke and there's no evidence of collusion. they're sort of carving out the wrong thing. there's never been an example of anyone hauled out before congress because they did anything right. it is always because they did something wrong. in jeff sessions' case, the most generous explanation is that he forgot with the conversations with russia. the most sinister one is he lied about it. i think it is a known unknown that we are get to the bottom of it today. we are not the creators of the narratives and we are not the
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ones that cause everyone in the trump orbit to either lie about, omit or misremember a contact with the russians. >> to speak to that, it is such an important point. there is a question of whether crimes occurred, then there is a question of who committed them. if they did occur. from the public available evidence, several crimes did occur. it is a violation of the computer fraud and abuse act to have unauthorized access to a computer. it is a felony. that's hacking. there has not been any evidence that john podesta mackically relear magically released his e-mails himself. if you find a foreigner gave a money or thing of value to a u.s. campaign, that's certainly a felly. the reason why congress so long ago so teethly regulated with criminal sanction, foreign involvement, we didn't want foreigners disrupting our campaigns. this is basic black letter law. so the question has always been whether you actually can indict and fine someone for that in the north korea hack example and
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others. it is hard sometimes for the fbi and u.s. authorities to actually go get those people, even when the felonies have occurred. i find it similarly odd, brian, that chris rudde from news max and others have suggested, well, there's nothing to even look at. that's wild! i would put it differently as a careful lawyer. there are crimes that appear to have occurred, and the question is who did them. if the answer is only random foreign hackers, or as the president once put it, some overweight fat guy in his basement disconnected to any other entity, well, yes, it may be like any other garden variety crime. when they go further, i think as a legal case it undermines it much more to act like it doesn't matter that criminal hacking and potentially criminal intervention in election didn't occur. >> but they're trying to argue this in the public sector in many ways. that is their strategy. it is to discredit not only us for reporting on it, but discredit the investigators and discredit the prosecutors and discredit now the special counsel. you have newt gingrich three
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weeks ago saying that bob mueller is basically unimpeachable, that he has great integrity. then sending out a tweet, as if we can't see his other tweet three weeks later that says, actually, i think we should relook at this, rethink it, look who he's hiring. so what they're going to do is they're going to try to discredit mueller by those that he's hired, they'll try and bring the clinton foundation into this and blame donations into this. whatever decision they make they'll have the fodder behind them, my electorate, people who voted for me who make up the majority of the republican party are still standing by me, and do you, mitch mcconnell, do you, paul ryan, do you whoever else is in the republican congress at that time, whenever this happens, do you want to go against me again? because i've proven over and over again that i will win. >> we can report that jeff sessions is in the room and ready to take his seat. we do -- before we get under way, we want to hear from a colleague of nicolle's in the
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bush white house, a man who was the chief ethics lawyer in the last republican white house prior to this one, and that is richard painter who has flown all the way from the twin cities to be here with us in new york. richard, what do you make of this conversation that we were just having that the surrogates for the president are questioning the need for mueller at all because no crime has taken place here? >> it's obvious a crime has taken place. the russians have conducted espionage inside the united states and stolen documents from democratic national committee computers. similar to what happened in watergate, but much more serious because it involves foreign spies and much more extensibiliextensive break-ins. so we know there is a crime. we also know that people have lied about their contacts with the russians, and in the case of general flynn, he lied about receiving money from the russians, as well as from turkey. so we have people in the administration lying about this.
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there clearly have been crimes committed. the important thing is for special counsel mueller to get to the bottom of the core issue of who collaborated with the russians, who knew about what the russians were doing at the time they were doing it, who didn't report it. because this is a very serious situation. where people in order to win an election will collaborate with an adversary of the united states that's conducting espionage inside the united states. it needs to be taken very seriously by the administration. we can find out who is guilty of these crimes and put them in jail, then hopefully be able to go on and make absolutely sure this never happens again. i hope attorney general sessions will be honest in his answers to the questions. he was not so candid with the senate judiciary committee in his confirmation hearings when he was asked about the russians. he needs to be very, very clear about any and all contacts he's had with the russians. and any knowledge he has of what happened during the campaign and who may have been collaborating
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with the russians. >> this is his chance to get everything he knows out. >> if richard painter were the ethics lawyer who oversaw the filling out of forms and the testifying before congress of all of the trump cabinet officials and all the cabinet staff, i think he would have lost his mind. i mean he was the ethics lawyer in the white house in which i worked. if i left off a meeting in which a reporter bought me a soda, i would have been hauled in before the white house counsel. i mean where they have taken this is to such a new low, it is hard to articulate how outside the mainstream it is for government officials to omit and/or lie about and/or misremember being the most fantastical about what went down between the white house. they're not meetings with the mexicans or the finns, they're meeting with americans' adversaries, namely russia. >> not just hauled into without
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counsel, but hauled into criminal court because another crime is withholding information on a security clearance form. maybe michael flynn just forgot about it, maybe jared kushner just forgot about meeting with the russians, maybe sessions just forgot about meeting with the russians. but it gets kind of weird when all of these people do this meeting with the russians -- which by itself is not a crime. they're asked about it and it just staeps theescapes their mi. >> i met one russian. i never forgot it because i was old enough to remember when russians weren't our friends. i mean you don't forget meeting with russians. i don't know. never before has a group of people had so much contacts with so much russians that they all forgot about. >> and that speaks to why what we are about to witness is potentially different, because it is running parallel to a real investigation. and in the court of public opinion and in campaigns, your side can believe all sorts of things. and a lot of campaigns, he
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said/he said is good enough, if you like your side. that's not how it works in an investigation, because veracity matters and evidence is sitting behind the veracity. so ultimately there's going to be determinations made about whether people had honest mistakes, which are not crimes, by the way. you are allowed to be forgetful. or whether there is something potentially more sinister here. by the way, e-mail records, text records, contemporaneous memos and other recollections of communications can speak to that. whether someone says, hey, you don't remember that meeting, do you? neither do i. let's kind of leave it off. it is a big difference between records that show someone was overwhelmed and worried about picking up their daughter from school and really forgot something. there are a lot of ways investogators bear down on that, and a good, honest investigator -- i don't know any serious legal republicans who say otherwise about mueller -- is going to not take that seriously. if they think someone is lying to investigators, which is a felony, pursuant to a wider government criminal conspiracy, they're probably going to pursue
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that. >> what i want to know is how jeff sessions answers the questions -- question, do you have a third meeting? did you have a third meeting with the russians? the doj is very specifically pushing back on a third meeting at the mayflower hotel when they respond and they say, it didn't happen. they said "at the mayflower hotel." is jeff sessions in this testimony right now going to say definitively that he did not have a third meeting with any russian ambassador or any russian official or any russian head of a bank, something like that, at any other location beyond just the mayflower hotel which is what, so far, everyone has been focused on? >> let's hear from our friend, jeremy bash, who is out in the bay area today. jeremy, former chief of staff at dod and cia and former counsel to the house intelligence committee. jeremy, first off, just given your history with house intel, i'm going to be bedelvilled by this question. for mr. cohen, the trump lawyer, why a september 5 testimony
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date, do you think? >> it sounds way too out in the future. i think they got to reel that back and put him in the witness chair in july. i agree with you, brian. building on nicolle's point, it is strange that all of these meetings with russians seem to induce contagious amnesia from all of the witnesses in this matter. i think it is very strange. i think the committee has to look at that very carefully. but the most important question that i'm interested in today is why did the trump campaign take this exceedingly bizarre position on russia? mr. sessions, senator sessions, you were one of the chief foreign policy advisors to the campaign and the candidate. tell us about all the conversations you had with paul manafort, with mike flynn, with the candidate, not just with russians. because i think he will characterize the formal meetings with russians as sort of talking about foreign policy and talking about repairing the relationship and that's going to sort of seem as motherhood and apple pie, nothing to see here. but i do think the committee has to get at the conversations among the campaign advisors and
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were there contacts with people like roger stone, with carter page. again, what was the role of paul manafort. those individuals if we rewind the tape all the way back to last summer, going into the fall, when did you first become aware that the russians had been interfering in the election. what was your reaction, what did you do about it? he has a lot of questions to answer for, and as ari and others have noted, i cannot assert executive privilege with respect to those questions. >> we're watching while jeremy was talking, we saw marco rubio take his seat. this is a bit unusual. burr has run a timely operation. we're five minutes after the start time and there is jack reed and there's cam kamala har. >> in fairness to the attorney general and the white house, there are certainly mainstream precedents supporting qualified executive privilege for direct advice to the president, and certainly for anything that involves an active national
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security state secret. i think what we need to watch for, if executive privilege is invoked here, is whether it is either broader than that -- oh, i can't talk about any topic whatsoever because there is no automatic superprivilege for something that happened outside of the president's purview -- or for something that seems too cute by a half. oh, i need to exert executive privilege over why comey was fired, but, gosh, the president's been talking about that on air, and you've been writing letters about it, so where is the secret? where is the beef, where's the secret kind of question? so i think there is a way for the attorney general to invoke privilege. if he does today, it will be the if irs time the trump administration has done that before congress. for giving some context, the obama administration did that once, executive privilege. the bush administration did it six times. and the clinton administration did it 14 times. so modern administrations don't do it constantly, but they do invoke and use. and it is legally valid if it's narrow and clear. or it can be seen as an abuse.
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i would note on the obama side, he overreached and ultimately lost his invocation of executive privilege in court in a very long battle over fast and furious, an issue republicans were upset about it and ultimately were correct, in part, that he had overreached. it will be very important, brian, to watch if executive privilege is invoked, how it is invoked. >> just record keeping here, about the president. because we may be cutting to departure and arrival pictures along the way while never leaving the room where the testimony is taking place. the president is going to milwaukee. he will deliver a speech on health care. again, they're trying to ignite a spark on this topic. it's, as you may know, kind of floating in the u.s. senate, let's say. it faces a very uncertain future. the repeal and replace movement. he will meet with "obamacare victims," before touring a local technical college and
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participating in a roundtable. later in the evening he will deliver remarks at a fund-raiser, the friends of governor scott walker reception. and if you're looking for issues, again, there's john mccain of arizona, nicolle. but if you're looking for issues, health care is a good one. and it is one where they have the public's attention. it is just not moving. >> and they have learned here in early june how to counterprogram a crisis. it is a smart thing to do at a tactical level. they're speaking to their 38% to 40% of the country that's behind them and isn't worried about russia's role in meddling in our election, which is sort of stunning in and of itself. but they have learned that there is some value in keeping the president busy so that he himself isn't fixated on the cable news coverage and commentary and a wild man on twitter as he's known to be. something that i think we talk about the two meetings and
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whether there were two or three, and we're looking for what we flow we don't know yet. something we know happened at the convention, and jeff sessions was already a part of team trump, was that the republican platform changed for the first time in american history to include russia-friendly, pro-russia lang to lessen the penalties for russia for their actions, their aggressions against their neighbors, like the ukraine. one thing that i think is an important part to learn about sessions is whether all these meetings with the russians included conversations about policy and was the sort of conversation topic broader than whether you get in office, what will you do for me? the russians could read the same crummy polls we were reading. the russians didn't know trump was going to win. but they got busy done with trump before he won. they got busy done at the republican convention in cleveland and that business was seismic. it was an historic ship in the lang with how the republican party viewed russia prp it is
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interesting to me, the previous two standard bearers are the party were mitt romney and john mccain who is a hero for standing up to russia, so i think there is a larger body of substance the senators should seek understanding and clarity on whether jeff sessions was involved and whether those two to three contacts with the russians include policy discussions. >> you're right, that has been the underreported part of this, and that is the platform at the convention. there is the attorney general. going to come around and take his seat behind the witness table. let's open up some of the audio in the room.
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>> chairman burr looks to be making his way over to the attorney general. along with mark warner, the lead democrat. if you thought digital photography here was going to be quieter, i guess we can dispel that myth.
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last night we had former nebraska senator bob carrie on our broadcast. he guessed that senate privilege, while a huge factor in confirmation with a member of the senate, may not play all that big a role today. let's listen in. >> attorney general sessions, appreciate your willingness to appear before the committee today. i thank you for your years of dedicated service as a member of
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this body, and your recent leadership at the department of justice. as i mentioned when director comey appeared before us last week, this committee's role is to be the eyes and ears for the other 85 members of the united states senate, and for the american people, ensuring that the intelligence community is operating lawfully and has the necessary tools to keep america safe. the community is large and diverse place. we recognize the gravity of our investigation into russia's interference in the 2016 u.s. elections, but i remind our constituents that, while we investigate russia, we are scrutinizing cia's budget, while we are investigating russia, we are still scrutinizing cia's budget, nsa's 702 program, our nation's satellite program, and the entire ic effort to recruit and retain the best talent we can find in the world. more often than not, the
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committee conducts its work behind closed doors, a necessary step to ensure that our most sensitive sources and methods are protected. the sanctity of these sources and methods are at the heart of the intelligence community's ability to keep us safe. and to keep our allies safe from those who seek to harm us. i've said repeatedly that i did not believe any committee -- that the committee does should be done in public. but i also recognize the gravity of the committee's current investigation and the need for the american people to be presented the facts so that they might make their own judgments. it is for that reason that this committee has now held its tenth open hearing of 2017. more than double that of the committee in recent years, and the fifth on the topic of russian interference.
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attorney general sessions, this venue is your opportunity to separate fact from fiction and to set the record straight on a number of allegations reported in the press. for example, there are several issues that i'm hopeful we will address today. one, did you have any meetings with russian officials or their proxies on behalf of the trump campaign or during your time as attorney general? two, what was your involvement with candidate trump's foreign policy team and what were their possible interactions with russians? three, why did you decide to recuse yourself from the government's russia investigation? and, fourth, what role, if any, did you play in the removal of then-fbi director comey? i look forward to a candid and honest discussion as we continue to pursue the truth behind russia's interference in the 2016 elections. the committee's experienced staff is interviewing the relevant parties. having spoken to more than 35 individuals to date, to include
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just yesterday an interview of former homeland security secretary jeh johnson. we also continue to review some of the most sensitive intelligence in our country's possession. as i've said previously, we will establish the facts, separate from rampant speculation, and lay them out for the american people to make their own judgment. only then will we as a nation be able to put this episode to rest and look to the future. i'm hopeful that members will focus their questions today on the russia investigation and not squander the opportunity by taking political or partisan shots. the vice chairman and i continue to lead this investigation together on what is a highly charged political issue. we may disagree at times, but we remain a unified team with a dedicated, focused and professional staff working tirelessly on behalf of the american people to find the
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truth. the committee has made much progress as the political winds blow forcefully around us, and i think all members would agree that despite a torrent of public debate on who and what committee might be best suited to lead on this issue, the intelligence committee has lived up to its obligation to move forward with purpose and above politics. mr. attorney general, it's good to have you back. i would now turn to the vice chairman for any remarks he might have. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and i want to also thank the way that we're proceeding on this investigation. mr. attorney general, it is good to see you again. and we appreciate your appearance on the heels of mr. comey's revealing testimony last week. i do, though, want to take a moment at the outset and first express some concern with the process by which we are seeing you, the attorney general, today. it is my understanding that you were originally scheduled to
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testify in front of the house and senate appropriations committees today. i know those appearances have been canceled to come here instead. while we appreciate his testimony, before our committee, i believe -- and i believe i speak for many of my colleagues -- that i believe he should also answer questions from members of those committees and the judiciary committee as well. mr. attorney general, it's my hope that you will reschedule those appearances as soon as possible. in addition, i want to say at the outset that while we consider your appearance today as just the beginning of our interaction with you and your department, mr. attorney general, we had always expected to talk to you as part of our investigation. we believed it would be actually later in the process. we're glad to accommodate your request to speak to us today, but we also expect to have your commitment to cooperate with all future requests and make yourself available, as
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necessary, to this committee for, as the chairman indicated with be this very important investigation. now let's move to the subject of today's discussion. let's start with the campaign. you were an early and ardent supporter of mr. trump. in march you were named as chairman of the trump campaign's national security advisory committee. you were much more than a surrogate, you were strategic advisor who helped shape much of the campaign's national security strategy. no doubt, you will have key insights about some of the key trump associates that were seeking to hear from in the weeks ahead. questions have also been raised about some of your own interactions with russian officials during the campaign. during your confirmation hearing in january you said, "you did not have communications with russians. senator leahy later asked you in writing whether you had been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the russian government about the 2016 election. you answered, i believe with a
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definitive, no. despite that fact, despite that, the fact is, as we discovered later, that you did have interarinte interactions with russian government officialscampaign. in march you acknowledged two meadings with the russian ambassador. there has been public reports of a possible third meeting at the may flower hotel on april 27th. i hope you will help clear up the discrepancies. i hope you will be able to provide the committee with any documents we need to shed light on the issue such as e-mails or calendars. then there is a topic of the firing of former director comey. last thursday we received testimony from mr. comey under oath. he outlined his troubling interactions with the president as well as the circumstances of his firing. a few sbrushing poin inin ining
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points stood out. he has decades of experience at the fbi and serving under presidents of both parties was so unnerved by the actions of the president that he felt compelled to fully document every interaction they had. mr. comey sat where you are sitting today and testified that he was concerned that the president of the united states might lie about the nature of their meetings. that's a shocking statement from one of the nation's top law enforcement official. we heard that director comey took it as a direction from the president that he was to drop the fbi's investigation into former adviser mike flynn. finally we heard from mr. comby that he believes he was fired over his handling of the russia investigation. the president himself confirmed this in statements to the media. this is deeply troubling for all
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of us who believe on both sides in preserving the independence of the fbi. we have a lot of work in order to follow-up on these alarming disclosures. mr. attorney general your testimony today is an opportunity to begin the process of asking those questions. for instance again, i know others will ask about this. you recused yourself from the russia investigation and participated in the firing over the handling of that same investigation. we want to ask how you view your recusal and whether you believe you complied fully. we heard from mr. comey that the president asked to you leave the oval office so he could speak one on with mr. comey. again, a very concerning action. we will need to hear from you about how you viewed the president's request and whether you thought it was appropriate. we also want to know if you are aware of any attempts bite the
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president to enlist leaders in the intelligence community to undermine this same russia investigation. most importantly, our committee will want to hear what you are doing to ensure that the russians or any other foreign adversaries cannot attack our democratic process like this ever again. i'm concerned that the president still does not recognize the severity of the threat. he to date has not acknowledged the conclusions of the intelligence community that russia massively intervened in our elections. the threat we face is real. it's not limited to us. the recent effects in france are a stark remind they're all western democracies must take steps to protect themselves. the united states and can must be a leader in this effort, but will require the administration to get serious about this. we have seen a concerning
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pattern of administration officials refusing to answer public unclassified questions about allegations about the president in this investigation. we have a hearing with this subject last week. i want to commend the chairman who at the end of that hearing made clear that our witnesses, it was not acceptable for them to come forward without answers. the the american people deserve to hear what's going on here. i look forward to the testimony. >> thank you, vice chairman. attorney general sessions, if you would stand, i will administer the oath. raise your right hand. do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? >> i do. >> thank you, attorney general sessions. the floor is yours. >> thank you very much chairman burr and ranking member warner for allowing me to publicly appear before your committee today.
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i appreciate the committee's critically important efforts to investigate russian interference with our democratic processes. such interference can never be tolerated and i encourage every effort to get to the bottom of any such allegations. as you know, the deputy attorney general has appointed a special counsel to investigate the matters related to the russian interference in the 2016 election. i'm here today to address several issues that have been specifically raised before this committee. and i appreciate the opportunity to respond to questions as fully as the lord enables me to do so. as i advise you, mr. chairman with long standing department of justice practice, i cannot and will not violate my duty to protect confidential communications i have with the president. let me address issues directly. i did not have any private
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meetings nor do i recall any conversations with any russian officials at the may flower hotel. i did not attend any meetings separately prior to the speech attended by the president today. i attended a reception with my staff that included at least two dozen people and president trump, though i do recall several conversations i had during that prespeech reception and do not have recollection of meeting or talking to the russian ambassador or any other russian officials. if any brief interaction occurred in passing with the russian ambassador in that reception, i do not remember it. after the speech i was interviewed by the news mead why and there was an area for that in a different room and then i left the hotel. whether i attended a reception where the russian ambassador was also property is entirely beside
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the point of this investigation into russian interference in the 2016 campaign. let me state this clearly, colleagues. i have never met with or had any conversation with any russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the united states. further, i have no knowledge of any such conversations by anyone connected to the trump campaign. i was your colleague in this body for 20 years, at least some of you. and the suggestion that i participated in any collusion that i was aware of any collusion with the russian government to hurt this country which i have served with honor for 35 years or to undermine the integrity of our democratic sprosz an appalling and
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detestable lie. relatedly, there is the assertion that i did not answer senator franken's question honestly in my confirmation hearing. colleagues, that is false. i can't say colleagues now. i'm no longer a part of this body, but a former colleague. that is false. this is what happened. senator franken asked me a rambling question after some six hours of testimony that included dramatic new allegations that the united states intelligence community, the u.s. intelligence community had advised president-elect trump "that there was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between trump's surrogates and intermediaries for the russian government." i was taken aback by that explosive allegation which he
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said was being reported as breaking news that very day. in which i had not heard. i wanted to refute that immediately. any suggestion that i was part of such an activity. i replied to senator franken this way. "senator franken, i'm not aware of any of those activities. i have been called a surrogate a time or two in that campaign and i did not have communications with the russians and i'm unable to comment on it." that was the context in which i was asked the question and in this that context my answer was a fair and correct response to the charge as i understand it. i was responding to the allegation ta surrogates were meading with the russians and simply did not occur to go further than the context and
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list any conversations that i may have had with russians in routine situations as i had many routine meetings with other foreign officials. so please hear me now. it was only in march after my confirmation hearing that a reporter asked me spokesperson whether i had met with any russian officials. this was a first time that question had squarely been posed to me. on the same day we provided that reporter with the information related to the meeting that i and my staff held in my senate office with ambassador kiss li action after a speech that i had given during the convention in cleveland, ohio. i also provided the reporter with a list of 25 foreign ambassador meetings i had had
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during 2016. in addition, i provided supplemental testimony to the senate judiciary committee to explain this event. so i readily acknowledged these two meetings and certainly not one thing happened that was improper in any one of those meetings. let me also explain clearly the circumstances of my recusal from the investigation into the russian interference with the 2016 election. please, colleagues, hear me on this. i was sworn in as attorney general on thursday, february 9th. the very next day as i had promised to the judiciary committee i would do at least at an early date, i met with the career department officials including a senior ethics official to discuss things publicly reported in the press that might have some bearing on whether or not i should recuse myself in this case.
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from that point, february 10th until i announced my formal recusal on march 2nd, i was never briefed on any investigative details, did not access any information about the investigation. i received only the limited information that the department's career officials determined was necessary for me to form and make a recusal decision. as such, i have no knowledge about this investigation as it is ongoing today beyond what has been reported. i don't even read that carefully. i have taken no action whatsoever with regard to any such investigation. on the date of my formal recusal, my chief of staff sent an e-mail to the heads of relevant departments including by name to director comey of the fbi to instruct them to inform their staffs of this recusal and
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advise them not to brief me or involve me in any way in any such matters. in fact they have not. importantly i recuse myself not because of any asserted wrong-doing or any that i may have been involved in any wrong-doing in the campaign, but because a department of justice regulation. 28 cfr 45.2 i felt required it. that regulation states in effect that department employees should not participate in investigations of a campaign if they served as a campaign adviser. so the scope of my recusal however does not and cannot interfere with my ability to oversee the department of justice including the fbi which has an $8 billion budget and
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35,000 employees. i presented to the president my concerns and those of deputy attorney general rod rosenstein about the ongoing leadership issues at the fbi as stated in my letter recommending the removal of mr. comey along with the deputy attorney general's memorandum on that issue which have been released by the white house. those represent a clear statement of my views. i adopted the deputy attorney general rosenstein's points he made in his memorandum and made my recommendation. it is absurd frankly to suggest that a recusal from a single specific investigation would render the attorney general unable to manage the leadership of the various department of justice law enforcement components that conduct thousands of investigations.
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finally, during his testimony, mr. comey discussed a conversation that he and i had about the meeting mr. comey had with the president. i'm happy to share with the committee my recollection of that conversation that i had with mr. comey. following a routine morning threat briefing, mr. comey spoke to me and my chief of staff. while he did not provide me with any of the substance of his conversation with the president apparently the day before, mr. comey expressed concern about proper communications protocol with the white house and with the president. i responded. he didn't recall this, but i responded to his comment by agreeing that the fbi and the department of justice needed to be careful to follow department policies regarding appropriate contacts with the white house. mr. comey had served in the
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department for better than two decades and i was confident he understood and would abide by the well established rules limiting communications with the white house, especially about ongoing investigations. that's what is so important to control. my comments encouraged him to do just that and indeed as i understand it, he in fact did that. our department of justice rules on proper communications between the department and the white house have been in place for years. mr. comey well knew them. i thought and assumed correctly that he complied with them. i will finish with this. i recuse myself from any investigation into the campaign for president, but i did not recuse myself from defending my honor against false allegations. at all times throughout the course of the campaign, the confirmation process, and since
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becoming attorney general, i have dedicated myself to the highest standards. i have earned a reputation for that. at home and in this body, i believe. over decades of performance. the people of this country expect an honest and transparent government and that's what we are giving them. this president wants to focus on the people of this country to ensure they are treated fairly and kept safe. the trump agenda is to improve the lives of the american people. i know some have different ways of achieving that and different agendas, but that is his agenda and one i share. importantly as attorney general, i have a responsibility to enforce the laws of this nation to protect this country from itsen r eneits enemies and i intend to work every day with the fine team and the superb professionals in the
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department of justice to advance the important work we have to do. these false attacks and innuendos and the leaks, you can be sure will not intimidate me. these events have only strengthened my resolve to fulfill my duty. my duty to reduce crime and support the federal, state, and local law enforcement who work on the streets every day. just last week it was reported that overdosed deaths in this country are rising faster than ever recorded. last year was 52,000 and the "new york times" just estimated next year will be 62,000 overdose deaths. the murder rate sup ovis up ove. together we are telling the gangs and cartel s and the
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fraudsters and the terrorists we are coming after you. every one of our citizens no matter who they are or where they live has the right to be safe in their homes and communities. i will not be deter and allow this great department to be deterred from its vital mission. thank you, mr. chairman and ranking member warner. i have a great honor to appear before you today and will do my best to answer your questions. >> general sessions, thank you for that testimony. i would like to note for members, the chair and the vice chairman will be recognized for 10 minutes and members for five minutes. i would like to remind our members that we are in open session. no references to classified or committee-sensitive materials should be used relative to your questions. with that i recognize myself at this time for 10 minutes.
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general sessions, you talked about the may flower hotel where the president gave his first foreign policy speech. it has been covered in the press that the president was there and you were there and others were there. from your testimony, you said you don't remember whether ambassador from russia was there. >> i did not remember that, but i understand he was there. so i don't doubt that he was. i believe that representations are correct. i recently saw a video of him coming into the room. >> you never remember having a conversation or meeting with the ambassador? >> i do not. >> was there ever a private room setting that you were involved
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in? >> no, other than the reception area that was shut off from i guess the main crowd. two to three dozen people. >> i would take for granted that the president shook some hands. >> he came in and shook hands in the group. >> okay. you mentioned that there were staff with you at that event. >> my legislative director at the time -- >> your senate staff? >> senate legislative director who was a retired u.s. eashl colonel and 7ed on the staff with senator john warner before she joined my staff was with me in the reception area and throughout the rest of the events. >> would you say you were there as a united states senator or as a surrogate of the campaign for this event? >> i came there as an interested person and very anxious to see
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how president trump would do in his first major foreign policy address. i believe he had only given one major speech before and that was maybe at the jewish event. it was an international time for me to observe his delivery and the message he would make. that was my main purpose of being there. >> you reported two other meetings with the ambassador, on july on the sidelines of the republican convention, i believe and in september this your senate office. have you had any other interactions with government officials over the year in a campaign capacity? i'm not asking you from the standpoint of your single life, but in the campaign. >> no, mr. chairman. i rack my brain to make sure i could answer any of those questions correctly and i did not. i would just offer for you that
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when asked about whether i had any meetings with the russians about a reporter in march, we immediately recalled the conversation and the encounter i had at the convention and the meeting in my office and made that public. i never intended not to include that. i would have gladly have reported the meeting and encounter that may have occurred and some say occurred in the may flower if i remembered it or if it occur and form that it did. >> on march 2nd, 2017, you recused yourself in the investigation being conducted by the fbi and the department of justice. what are the specific reasons that you chose to recuse yourself? >> the specific reason, chairman, is a cfr code of
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federal regulations put out by the differently justice. part of the department of justice rules and it says this. i will read from it. 28 cfr 45.2. unless authorized, no employee shall participate in a criminal investigation or prosecution if he had a personal or political relationship with any person involved in the conduct of an investigation that goes on to say for political campaign and it says if you have a close identification with an elected official or candidate arising from service as a principal adviser, you should not participate in an investigation of that campaign. many have suggested that my
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recusal is because i felt i was a subject of the investigation myself. i may have done something wrong. this is the reason i recused myself. i felt i was required to under the rules of the department of justice and as a leader of the department of justice. i should comply with the rules obviously. >> did your legal counsel know from day one you would have to recuse yourself because of the current statute? >> i have a timeline of what occurred. i was sworn in on the 9th, i believe, of february. i then on the 10th had my first meeting to generally discuss this issue where the cfr was not discussed. we had several other meetings and it became clear to me overtime that i qualified as a significant principal
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adviser-type person to the campaign and it was the appropriate and right thing for me. >> this could explain director comey's comments that he ghu there was a likelihood you would recuse yourself because he was familiar with the same statute? >> probably so. i'm sure that the attorneys in the department of justice probably communicated with them. mr. chairman, let me say this to you clearly. in effect as a matter of fact, i recused myself that day. i never received any information about the campaign. i thought there was a problem with me being able to serve as attorney general over this issue and i felt i would have to recuse myself and i took the position correctly, i believe, not to involve myself in the campaign in any way and i did
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not. >> you made a reference to the chief of staff sending out an e-mail immediately notifying internationally of your decision to recuse. would you ask the staff to make that e-mail available? >> we would be pleased to do so and i have it with me now. >> thank you. have you had intersections with the special counsel robert muller? >> with regard to the e-mail we sent out, director comey indicated that he did not know when i recused myself or receive notice, one of them went to him by name. a lot happens in our offices. i'm not accusing him of wrong-doing and it was sent to him and to his name. >> okay. general session, you said he testified about his interactions with the president in some cases high lying your presence with the meetings.
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you addressed the meeting where all were asked to leave except for director comey. you said he did inform you of how uncomfortable that was. your recommendation was that the fbi and doj needed to follow the rules limning further correspondence. did director comey express additional discomfort with conversations that the president might have had with him? he had two additional meetings and a total of six phone calls. >> that is correct. there is nothing wrong with the president having communication with the fbi director. what is problematic for any department of justice employee is to talk to any cabinet persons or white house officials
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about ongoing investigations that are not properly cleared through the top levels of the department of justice. so it was a regulation i think is healthy. i thought we needed and strongly believe we need to restore discipline to adhere to just those kinds of rules and leaking rules and the other things that i think are a bit lax and need to be restored. >> you couldn't have had a conversation with the president about the investigation because you were never briefed some. >> that is correct. i would note that with regard to the private meeting that director comey had by his own admission, i believe, as many as six such meetings. several them he had with president trump. i think two with president obama. it's not improper perry se, but
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would not be proper to share information without review and permission. >> just one last question. you were the chair of this foreign policy team for the trump campaign. to the best of your knowledge, did that team ever meet? >> we met a couple of times. maybe a couple of people did. we never functioned as a coherent team. >> were there any members you never met? >> yes. >> okay. vice chairman. >> thank you, general sessions. as i mentioned in my opening statement, we appreciate your appearance, but see this as the first step and i would like to get your commitment that you will agree to make yourself available as the committee needs in the weeks and months ahead.
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>> senator, i will commit to appear before the committees and others as appropriate. i don't think it's good policy to bring cabinet members or the attorney general before multiple committees going-over the same things over and over. >> the a proppropriations commi raised that issue. >> i just gave you my answer. >> can we get your commitment since there will be questions about the meetings that took place or not, access to documents or memoranda or your day book or something? >> we will be glad to provide appropriate responses to your questions and review them carefully. >> yesterday a friend of the president was reported to suggesting that president trump was considering removing director mueller as special counsel. do you have confidence in director mueller's 80 to conduct the investigation fairly and
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impartially? >> i don't know about the reports and have no basis to -- >> i'm asking -- >> the validity. i have known mr. mueller over the years and he served 12 years as fbi director. i knew him before that. i have confidence in mr. mueller. >> you have confidence he will do the job? >> i will not discuss hypotheticals or what might be a factual situation in the future that i'm not aware of today. i know nothing about the investigation. i fully recuse myself. >> i have a series of questions, sir. do you believe the president has confidence? >> i have not talked to him about it. >> if we commit to the committee not to take personal actions that might not result in director mueller's firing or dismissal? >> i can say that with confidence. in fact the way it works, senator warner is that the
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acting attorney general. >> i'm aware, but i wanted to get you on the record. >> deputy attorney general. -- >> you would not take any actions to have the special investigator removed. >> i don't think that's appropriate for me to do. >> to your knowledge, have any department of justice officials been involved with conversations about any possibility of presidential pardons about any of the individuals involved with the russia investigation? >> mr. chairman, i'm not able to comment on conversations with high officials within the white house. that would be a violation of the communications rule that i have to -- >> just so i can understand, is the basis of that unwilling to answer based on executive privilege? >> it's a long standing policy. the department of justice not to comment on conversations that
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the attorney general had with the president of the united states for confidential reasons that really are fun toed ounded coequal branch. >> just so i understand, is that mean you claim executive privilege? >> i'm not claiming executive privilege because that's the president's power and i have no power there. >> what about conversations with other department of justice or white house officials about potential pardons. not the president, sir. >> without in any way suggesting i had any conversations concerning pardons, totally apart from that, there are privileges of communication within the department of justice that we share all of us do. we have a right to have full and robust debate within the department of justice and encourage people to speak up and argue cases on different sides.
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those arguments are not -- historically we have seen they shouldn't be revealed. >> i hope you agree since you recused yourself that if the president or others would pardon someone during the midst of this investigation while our investigation or mr. muller's investigation, that would be problematic. one of the comments you made in d in your testimony is you reached a conclusion about then director comey's ability to lead the fbi and you agreed with deputy attorney general rosenstein's memo. the fact that you worked with comey for sometime, did you ever have a conversation as a superior of director comey with his failure to perform or some of these accusations that he was not running in a good way and somehow the fbi is in turmoil.
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did you have any conversations about the subjects? >> i did not. >> so you were his superior and there were fairly harsh things said about director comey. you never thought it was appropriate to raise those concerns before he was absolutely terminated by the president? >> i did not do so. a memoranda was prepared by the deputy attorney general who evaluated his performance and noted serious problems with it. >> you agreed with those? >> i agreed with those. in fact senator warner, we talked about it before i was confirmed and before he was confirmed. it's something we both agreed to that a fresh start at the fbi was probably the best thing. >> it again seems a little -- i understand if you talk about that before you came on and had a chance for a fresh start. there was no fresh start. suddenly we are in the midst of
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the investigation and with timing it seems peculiar that what was out of the blue he fires the fbi director and all the problems of disarray and a lack of the accord with the fbi that he denied is the case, i would think that somebody would have had that conversation. let's go to the april 27th meeting. it is brought up and i think the chairman brought it up. by that time, you had been named as the chair of then candidate trump's advisory. showing up, that meeting would be appropriate. >> that was the may flower hotel. >> yes, sir. my understanding was that the president's son in law jared kushner was at that meeting as well. >> i believe he was, yes. >> you don't reccollect when he had the conversations with the
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ambassador? >> i do not. >> to the best of your memory you had no conversation with him at that meet something. >> i don't recall that, senator. certainly i can assure you nothing improper if i had a conversation with him. it's conceivable, but i don't remember it. >> there was nothing in your notes or memory so when you had a chance and you did correct the record about the other two sessions in response to senator franken and leahy, this didn't pop into your memory with the caution you had to report that this session as well. >> i guess i can say that i possibly had a meeting, but i still do not recall it. i did not in any way fail to record something in my testimony or in my subsequent letter intentionally false. >> i understand. i'm trying to understand you
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corrected the record and clearly by the time you get a chance to correct the record, you would have known that the ambassador was at that april 27th session. it received quite a bit of press notoriety. and again, echoing what the chairman said, again for the record, there was no other meeting with any other officials of the russian government in the campaign season. >> not to my recollection. i would say with regard to the two encounters, one at the may flower hotel that you refer to, i came there not knowing he was going to be there. i didn't have any communications with him before or after that event. likewise at the effect at the convention went off the convention grounds to a college campus for an event.
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>> at the may flower -- >> let me follow-up on that one. i didn't know he would be in the audience. >> at the may flower there was this vip reception first and people went into the speech. just so i get a -- >> that's my recollection. >> you were part of the vip reception? >> yes. >> general sessions, one of the troubling things that i need to sort through is mr. comey's testimony last week is he felt uncomfortable when the president asked everyone else to leave the room. he left the impression that you lingered with perhaps the sense that you felt uncomfortable with it as well. i will allow you to correct it if it's not right. after this meeting took place, which clearly director comey felt had a level of
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uncomfortableness. you never asked him what took place in that meeting? >> i will say it this way. we were there and i was standing there and without revealing any conversation that took place, what i recall is that i did depart and i believe everyone else did depart and director comey was sitting in front of the president's desk and they were talking. i believe it was the next day that he said something and expressed concern about being left alone with the president. that in itself is not problematic. he did not tell me at that time any details about anything that was said that was improper. i affirmed his concern that we should be following the proper guide lines of the department of justice and basically backed him up in his concerns. he should not carry on any conversation with the president
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or anyone else about an investigation that was not proper. i felt he so long in the want it, former deputy attorney general knew the policy a good deal better. >> thank you. it did appear that mr. comey felt that the conversation was improper. >> he was concerned about it. his recollection of what he said to me about his concern is consistent with my recollection. >> senator? >> attorney general sessions, good to hear you talk about how important this russian interference and active measures on the campaign is. i don't think there is any american who would disagree with the fact this we need to drill down to this, know what happened, get it out in front of the american people and do what we can to stop it again. that's what the committee was charged to do and started to do. as you know on february 14th,
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the "new york times" published an article alleging that there were constant communications between the trump campaign and the russians in collusion regarding the elections. do you recall that article when it came out? >> not exactly. >> generally? >> generally i remember the charges. >> mr. comey told us when he was here last week he had a specific recollection. he chased it down through the intelligence community and was not able to find a scintilla of evidence. he sought out republicans and democrats to tell them that this was false and there was no such facts anywhere. none the less, this committee took that on as a thing we spent really substantially more time on that than the russian act of measures. we have been through thousands of pages of information and
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interviewed witnesses and everything else who were no different than where we were when this thing started. there is no reports they know of of any factual information. are you aware of any such information? >> is that from the dossier or so-called dossier? i believe that's the report that senator franken hit me with when i was testifying. i suggested in the communications withes as a surrogate is false. >> mr. sessions, there has been all this talk about conversations and you had conversations with the russians. senators up here who were on foreign relations and intelligence or armed services, conversations with offices of
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other governs are everyday o curns and multiple time occurrences. >> i think it is, yes. >> indeed you run into one in the grocery store. is that fair? >> that could very well happen. we did nothing improper. >> on the other hand collusion with the russians or any other government when it comes to elections certainly would be improper and illegal. that that be a fair statement? >> absolutely. >> you willing to tell the american people unfiltered by what the media will put out you participated in no conversations of any kind where there was collusion between the trump campaign and a foreign government? >> i can say that absolutely and have no hesitation to do so. >> the former u.s. attorney and the attorney general of the united states, you participated as you described in the trump campaign. you travelled with the campaign?
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>> i did. >> you spoke for the campaign? >> not continually on the -- >> based approximate your experience and based approximate your participation, did you hear a whisper or a suggestion or anyone saying the russians were involved? >> i would not. >> what would you have done? >> would know it was improper. >> you would head for the exit. >> this is a serious matter. you are talking about hacking into a private person or dnc computer and obtaining information and spreading that out. that's not right. it's likely that laws were violated if laws occurred. it's an improper thing. >> has any person from the white house to the administration including the president of the
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united states either directed you or asked to you do any unlawful or illegal act since you have been attorney general of the united states? >> no, senator rich. they have not. >> thank you, mr. chair. >> senator feinstein. >> thanks very much, mr. chairman. welcome, attorney general. >> thank you. >> on may 19th, mr. rosenstein in a statement to the house of representatives essentially told them he learned on may 8th president trump intended to remove director comey. when you wrote your letter on may 9, did you know that the president had already decided to fire director comey? >> senator feinstein, i would say i believe it has been made public that the president asked
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us our opinion and it was given and he asked us to put that in writing. i don't know how much more he said than that, but he talked about it and i would let his words speak for themselves. >> well, on may 11th on nbc nightly news two days later, the president stated he would fire comb regardless of the recommendation. i'm puzzled about the recommendation because the decision had been made. what was the need for you to write a recommendation? >> well, we were asked our opinion and when we expressed it which was consistent with the letter we wrote, i felt comfortable and i asks the
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attorney general did too in providing that information in writing. >> do you concur with the president he was going to fire comey regardless of recommendation because the problem was the russian investigation? >> senator feinstein, i will have to let his words speak for himself. i'm not sure what was in his mindplicitly when we talked to him. >> did you discuss director comey's handling of the investigations with the president or anyone else? >> senator feinstein, that would call for a communication between the director and the president and i'm not able to comment on that. >> you are not able to answer the question here whether you discussed that with him? >> that's correct. >> and how do you view that
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since you discussed his termination, why wouldn't you discuss the reasons? >> well, those were put in writing and sent to the president and he made those public. he made that public. >> you had no verbal conversation with him about the firing of mr. comey? >> i'm not able to discuss with you or confirm or deny the nature of a private conversation that i may have had with the president on this subject or others. i know this will be discussed, but that's the rules that have been adhered to by the department of justice as you know. >> your long time colleague, but we heard mr. coates and admiral rogers say essentially the same thing. when it was easy just to say if the answer was no, no.
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>> the easy would have been easier to say yes, yes. both would have been improper. >> okay. so how exactly were you involved in the termination of director comey, because i am looking at your letter dated may 9 and you say the director of the fbi must be someone who follows faithfully the rules and principals and sets the right example forever our law enforcement officials, therefore i must recommend you remove director comey and identify an experience and qualified individual to lead the great men and women of the fbi. do you really believe that this had to do with director comey's performance with the men and women of the fbi?
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>> there was a clear view of mine and of deputy attorney general rosenstein as he set out at some length in his memoranda which i adopt and sent forward to the president that we had problems there and it was my best judgment that a fresh start at fbi was the appropriate thing to do and when i asked him if he said that to the president, deputy rosenstein's letter dealt with a number of things. when mr. comey declined the clinton prosecution, that was really a usurpation of the authority of the federal prosecutors in the department of justice. it was a stunning development. the fbi is the investigative team. they don't decide the policies.
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that was a thunderous thing. he also commented at some length on the declination of the clinton prosecution which you should not do. policies have been historic. if you decline, you decline and don't talk about it. there were other things that had happened that indicated to me a lack of discipline and it caused controvercio boy on both sides e aisle and a fresh start was appropriate and did not mind putting that in writing. >> my time is up. thank you very much. >> senator rubio. >> thank you for being here. i want to go back to february 14th and go back to the details and the director was here and provided great detail. there was a meeting in the oval office and you recall being there along with him and the meeting concluded and the president asked the director to stay behind, correct?
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>> that's a communication in the white house that i would not comment on. >> you remember seeing him stay behind? >> yes. >> his testimony was that you lingered and his view of it was you lingered because you knew you needed to stay. do you remember lingering and feeling like you needed to stay? >> i do recall being one of the last ones to leave. >> did you decide to be one of the last to leave? >> i don't know how that occurred. i think we finished a terrorism or counter terrorism briefing and people were filtering out. i eventually left and i do recall and i think i was the last or one of the last two or three to leave. >> would it be fair to say you needed to stay because it involved the fbi director? >> i don't know how i would characterize that, senator. it didn't seem to be a major
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problem. i knew that director comey a long time experienced senator in the department of justice could handle himself well. >> he characterized it as he said never leave me alone with the president again. it's not appropriate. this is his characterization, you shrugged as if to say what am i supposed to do about it? >> i think i described it more completely and correctly. he raised that issue with me. i believe the next day. i think that was correct. he expressed concern about that private conversation. i agreed with him essentially that there are rules on private conversations with the president. it is not a prohibition on a private discussion with the president as i believe he acknowledged six or more himself
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with president obama and president trump. i didn't feel like -- he gave me no detail about what it was that he was concerned about. i didn't say i wouldn't be able to respond if he called me. he certainly knew with regard that he could call his direct supervisor which in the department of justice, a supervisor to the fbi, the deputy attorney general could have complained any time if he felt pressured, but i had no doubt he would not yield to any pressure. >> do you know if the president records conversations in the oval office or anywhere in the white house some. >> i do not. >> any president was to record conversations in their official duties, would there be an obligation to preserve those records? >> i don't know, senator. probably so. >> i want to go to the campaign
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for a moment. i'm sure you are aware it is widely reported. they often pose not simply as an official, but uncovers the journalist in the like. at any point, did you have an investigation where you look back and say they were trying to influence me or gain insight and you look at them and wonder? >> i don't believe in my conversations with the three times. >> just in general. >> well, i meant a lot of people and a lot of foreign officials who wanted to argue their case for their country and to point out things they thought were important for their countries. that's the normal thing we talk about. >> as far as someone who is not an official from another count row and a businessman or anyone walking down the street, it
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struck me as someone who wanted to find out what the campaign was up to. in hindsight it appears suspicious some. >> i don't recall it now. >> my last question, you were on the foreign policy team and the republican platform was changed to not provide defensive weapons to ukraine. were you involved in that decision and do you know how the change was made? >> i was not active in the committee and did not participate in that and i don't think i had direct involvement. >> you had no recollection about the detate in the campaign? >> i never watched the debate if it occurred. i think it did. i don't recall. i have to think about that. >> thank you very much. mr. chairman, i want to thank you for holing this hearing in the open and in full view of the
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american people where it belongs. i believe the american people have had it with stonewalling. americans don't want to hear the answers are privileged and off limits or they can't be provided in public or it would be inappropriate for witnesses to tell us what they know. we are talking about an attack on our democratic institutions and stonewalling of any kind is unacceptable. general sessions acknowledged that there is no legal basis for this stonewalling. no to questions. last thursday i asked the former director comey about the fbi's intersections with you prior to your stepping aside from the russia investigation. mr. comey said your continued engagement with the russian investigation was "problematic "
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and he said he could not discuss it in public. they were calling for to you step aside from the investigation at least two weeks before you finally finally did . in your prepared statement you said you received, quote, limited information necessary to inform your recusal decision. given director comey's statement, we need to know what that was. were you aware of any concerns at the fbi or elsewhere in government about your contacts with the russians or any other matters relevant to whether you should step aside from the russian investigation? >> senator wyden, i am not stonewall i stonewalling. i am following the historic policies of the department of justice. you don't walk into hearing or
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committee meeting and reveal confidential communications with the president of the united states who is entitled to receive conventional communications in your best judgment about a host of issues and have to be accused of stonewalling them. so i would push back on that. secondly, mr. comey, perhaps he didn't know, but i basically recused myself the first day i got into the office because i never accessed files. i never learned the names of investigators. i never met with them. i never asked for any documentation. the documentation, what little i received was mostly already in the media and was presented by the senior ethics public -- professional responsibility attorney in the department and i made an hon oeft aest and prope decision to recuse myself as i told the members of the
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committee i would do when they confirmed me. >> respectfully, you're not answering the question. >> what is the question? >> the question is, mr. comey said there were matters with respect to the recusal that were problematic and he couldn't talk about them. what are they? >> why don't you tell me. there are none, senator wyden. there are none. i can tell you that for absolute certainty. this is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and i don't appreciate it. i try to give my best and truthful answers to any committee i've appeared before, and it's really -- people are suggesting through innuendo that i have been not honest about matters, and i've tried to be honest. >> my time is short. you made your point that you think mr. comey is engaging in
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innuendo. >> senator wyden, he did not say that. >> he said it was problematic, and asked you what was problematic about it. >> well, some of that leaked out of the committee that he said in closed sessions. >> okay. one more question. i asked the former fbi director whether your role in firing him, given that he was fired because of the russian investigation. director comey said this was a reasonable question. i want to ask you point-blank, why did you sign the letter recommending the firing of director comey when it violated your recusal? >> it did not violate my recusal. it did not violate my recusal. that would be the answer to that. and the letter that i signed represented my views that had been formulated for some time. >> mr. chairman, just so i can
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finish. that answer in my view doesn't pass the smell test. the president tweeted repeatedly about his anger about investigations into his associates and russia. the day before you wrote your letter, he tweeted the collusion story was a total hoax and asked when will this taxpayer-funded charade end. it doesn't pass the smell test. >> senator wyden, i should be able to briefly respond at least and say the letter, the memorandum that deputy rosenstein wrote and my letter that accompanied it represented my views of the situation. >> i'll ask more on the second round. thank you. >> senator collins. >> thank you, mr. chairman. attorney general sessions, i want to clarify who did what
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with regard to the firing of mr. com comey. first, when did you have your first conversation with rod rosenstein about mr. comey. >> we talked about it before either one of us were confirmed. it was a topic of conversation among people who served in the department for a long time. they knew what happened that fall was pretty dramatically unusual. many people felt it was very wrong. so it was in that context that we discussed it. we both found that we shared common view that a fresh start would be appropriate. >> this was based on mr. comey's handling of the investigation involving hillary clinton in which you said he usurped the authority of prosecutors at the department of justice? >> yes. that was part of it, and the
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commenting on the investigation in ways that go beyond the proper policies. we need to restore, senator collins, i think the classic discipline in the department. my team, we've discussed this. there's been too much leaking and too much talking publicly about investigations. in the long run, the rule that you remain mum about investigative policy -- >> subsequently the president asked you to put your views in writing you testified today. i believe that you were right to recuse yourself from the on going russian investigation, but then on may 9th you wrote your recommendation that mr. comey be dismissed. obviously this went back many months to the earlier conversations you had had with
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mr. rosenstein. my question is why do you believe that your recommendation to fire director comey was not inconsistent with your march 2nd recusal? >> thank you. the recusal involved -- one case involved in the department of justice and in the fbi. they conduct thousands of investigations. i'm the attorney general of the united states. it's my responsibility to -- our judiciary committee and other committees to ensure that that department is run properly. i have to make difficult decisions, and i do not believe that it is a sound position to say that, if you're recused for a single case involving any one of the great agencies like dea or u.s. marshals or atf that are
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part of the department of justi justice, you can't make a decision about the leadership in that agency. now, if you had known that the president subsequently was going to go on tv and in an interview are lester holt of nbc would say this russian thing was the reason for his decision to dismiss the fbi director, would you have felt uncomfortable about the timing of the decision? >> well, i would just say this, senator collins. i don't think it's appropriate to deal with those kind of hypotheticals. i have to deal in actual issues. i would respectfully not comment on that. >> well, let me ask you this. in retrospect, do you believe that it would have been better for you to have stayed out of the decision to fire director
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comey? >> i think it's my responsibility. i mean i was appointed to be attorney general, supervising all the federal agencies is my responsibility, trying to get the very best people in those agencies at the top of them is my responsibility, and i think i had a duty to do so. >> now, director comey testified that he was not comfortable telling you about his one-on-one conversation with the president on february 14th because he believed that you would shortly recuse yourself from the russian investigation which did did. yet, director comey testified that he told no one else at the department outside of the senior leadership team at the fbi. do you believe that the director had an obligation to bring the information about the president saying that he hoped he could
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let michael flynn go to someone else at the department of justice? there are an awful lot of lawyers at the department of justice, some 10,000 at the last count. >> i think the appropriate thing would have been for director comey to talk with the acting deputy attorney general that was his direct supervisor. that was dana boente who had 33 years in the department of justice and was even then still serving as six years and continues to serve as attorney general appointed by president obama. so he's a man of great integrity and everybody knows it. a man of decency and junlment. if he had concerns, i think he should have raised it to deputy attorney boente who would have been the appropriate person in any case really. but if he had any concern i might be recusing myself, that would be a double reason for him to share it with deputy attorney
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boente. >> thank you. >> senator heinrich. >> attorney general sessions, has the president ever expressed his frustration to you regarding your decision to recuse yourself? >> senator heinrich, i'm not able to share with this committee private communications. >> because you're invoking executive privilege? >> i'm not able to invoke executive privilege. that's the president's bre rogive. >> my understanding is you took an oath, raised your right hand today and said you would solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. now you're not answering questions. you're impeding this investigation. so my understanding of the legal standard is you either answer the question -- that's the best outcome. you say this is classified. can't answer it here. i'll answer it in closed session. that's bucket number two. bucket number three is to say i'm invoking executive
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privilege. there is no appropriateness bucket. it is not a legal standard. can you tell me what are these longstanding doj rules that protect conversations made in the executive without invoking executive privilege? >> senator, i'm protecting the president's constitutional right by not giving it away before he has a chance to to view it, and secondly, i am telling the truth in answering your question in saying it's a long-standing policy of the department of justice -- >> are those policies written? >> -- to make sure the president has full opportunity to decide these issues. >> can you share those policies with us? are they written down at the doj? >> i believe they are. >> so it's the appropriateness legal standard for not answering congressional inquiries. >> it's my judgment that it would be inappropriate for me to answer and reveal private
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conversations with the president when he has not had a full opportunity to review the questions and to make a decision on whether or not to approve such an answer, one. there are also other privileges that could be invoked. one of the things deals with the investigation of the special counsel. >> we're not asking questions about that investigation. if i wanted to ask questions about that investigation, i'd ask those of rod rosenstein. i'm asking about your personal knowledge from this committee which has a constitutional obligation to get to the bottom of this. there are two investigations here. there's a special counsel investigation, and there's also a congressional investigation. you are ob strubstructing the
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congressional investigation by your silence. i think your silence like the silence of adirector coats and admiral rogers speak volumes. >> i've spoken with members of the department and i believe this is consistent with my duties. >> senator reich asked you if you knew there was anything untoward about russia and the campaigns would you have headed for the exits. your response was maybe. why wasn't it yes? >> well, there was an improper, illegal relationship in an effort to impede or influence this campaign, i would absolutely have departed. >> i think that's a good answer. i'm not sure why it wasn't the answer in the first place. >> i thought i did answer it -- >> i thought it strange that neither you nor deputy attorney
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general rod rosenstein brought up performance issues with director comey. director mccabe has refuted that there were performance issues. this is ubl troing because it appears the president decided to fire director comey because he was pursuing the russia investigation and asked you to come up with an excuse. when your assessment of director comey didn't hold up to public scrutiny, the president finally admitted he fired director comey because he was pursuing the russia investigation, ichlt .e. lester holt interview. it appears his firing was directly related to russia, not departmental mismanagement. how do you scare those two things? >> well, you had a lot in that question. let me say first within a week or so -- i believe may 3rd,
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director comey testified that he believed the handling of the clinton declination was appropriate and he'd do it again. i know that was of great concern to us. that represented something that i think most professionals in the department of justice would totally agree that the fbi investigative agency bus not decide whether to prosecutor decline criminal cases. pretty breathtaking use of patience of the responsibility of the attorney general. so that's how we felt. that was sort of additional concern that we had heading the fbi, someone who boldly asserted the right to continue to make such decisions. that was one of the things we discussed. that was in the memorandum, i
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believe, and it was also an important factor for us. >> before i recognize senator blunt, i would like the record to show that last night admiral rogers spent almost two hours in closed session with the -- almost the full committee fulfilling his commitment to us in the hearing, that in closed session he would answer the question, and i think it was thoroughly answered, and all members were given an opportunity to ask questions. i want the record to show that with what senator heinrich stated. >> thank you, mr. chairman. it's good to see you. i know there are other places you'd rather be today. it's good to see you here together and know your family continues to be proud and supportive of what you do.
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>> thank you. i'm blessed indeed. >> i agree with that. i agree with that. let me just get a couple things clear in my mind here, notes i've taken while people were asking questions and you were talking, on the april 27th, 2016 event, i think that's the mayflower hotel speech that the president -- that the presidential candidate gave on foreign policy. you didn't have a room at that event where you had private meetings, did you? >> no, i did not. >> as i understand it, you went to a reception that was attended by how many people? >> i think two to three dozen. >> two to three dozen people. you went in, heard a speech and may have seen people on your way out? >> correct. >> so when you said you possibly had a meeting with mr. kislyak, did you mean you possibly met him? >> i didn't have any formal meeting with him, i'm confident of that.
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i may have had an encounter during the reception. that's the only thing i cannot say with certainty i did not. >> sometimes when i hear i had a meeting, that would would mean more than i met somebody. you might have met him at that reception. could you have met other ambassadors at that reception as well? >> i could. i remember one in particular that we had a conversation with whose country had an investment in alabama, and we talked at a little length about that. i remember that. otherwise, i have no recollection of a discussion with the russian ambassador. >> all right. so you were there. you've read since he was there. you may have seen him. but you have no room where you were having meetings with individuals to have discussions at the mayflower hotel that day. >> no, that is correct. >> whenever you talked to mr. comey after he had had his
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meeting with the president, you think that was probably the next day, you didn't stay afterwards and see him after he left the oval office that night? >> no. i understand his testimony may have suggested that it happened right afterwards, but it was either the next morning, which i think it was, or maybe the morning after that. we had a three times a week national security briefing with the fbi that i undertake. so it was after that that we had that conversation. >> what i'm not quite clear on, did you respond when he expressed his concern or not? >> yes, i did respond. i think he's incorrect. he indicated, i believe that he was not totally sure of the exact wording of the meeting. i do recall my chief of staff
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was with me. we recall that i did affirm longstanding written policies of the department of justice concerning communications with the white house. we have to follow those rules. in the long run, you're much better if you do. they do not prohibit communications one-on-one by the fbi director with the president, but if that conversation moves into certain areas, the rules apply to the department of justice. it's a duty of the fbi agent to say, mr. president, i can't talk about that. that's the way that should work. apparently it did because he said he did not improperly discuss matters with the president. >> when mr. comey talked with you about that meeting, did he mention mr. flynn? >> no. he mentioned no facts of any kind. he did not mention to me that he had been asked to do something
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that he thought was improper. he said he was uncomfortable, i believe, with it. >> after that discussion with mr. comey -- actually, i don't know he said he was uncomfortable. i think he said -- maybe what he testified to was perhaps the correct wording. i'm not sure exactly what he said, but i don't dispute it. >> exactly -- what i remember him saying is you didn't react at all and kind of shrugged. you're saying you referred him to the normal way these meetings were supposed to be conducted? >> i took it as a concern that he might be asked thing that was improper. i affirmed to him his willingness to say no or not go in an improper way -- improper direction. >> finally, i'm assuming you wouldn't talk about this because it would relate to the may 8th meeting.
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but my sense is that no decision is final until it's carried out. my guess is that there are people at this dias who said they were going to let somebody go or fire somebody that never did that. the fact that the president said that on may 8th doesn't mean that the information he got from you on may 9th was not necessary or impactful, and i'm sure you're not going to say how many times the president said we ought to get rid of that person, but i'm sure that's happened. chairman, thank you. >> senator cain. >> mr. attorney general, thank you for joining us today. you testified a few minutes ago, i'm not able to invoke executive privilege, that's up to the president. has the president invoked executive privilege in the case of your testimony here today? >> he has not. >> then what is the basis of your refusal to answer these questions? >> senator cain, the president has a constitutional -- >> i understand that, but the
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president hasn't asserted it. you said you don't have the power to assert the power of executive privilege. what is the legal basis for your refusal to answer these questions? >> i'm protecting the right of the president to assert it if he chooses. there may be other privileges that could apply in this circumstance. >> you can't have it both ways. the president can't not assert it. you testified that only the president can assert it. yet, i just don't understand the legal basis for your refusal to answer. >> what we try to do -- i think most cabinet officials, others that you questioned recently, officials before the committee, protect the president's right to do so. if it comes to a point where the issue is clear and there's a dispute about it, at some point the president will either assert the privilege or not or some other privilege can be -- would be asserted.
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but at this point i believe it's premature for me to -- >> you're assesseding a privilege -- >> it would be premature for me to deny the president a full and intelligent choice about executive privilege. that's not necessary at this point. >> you testified a few minutes ago, quote, we were asked for our opinion. who asked for your opinion? >> you mean -- >> you testified we were asked for our opinion. >> my understanding is -- i believe i'm correct in saying the president has said so, that -- >> he didn't ask you directly? >> i thought you were asking about the privilege. you want to go back. >> no, i'm sorry. you said, quote, we were asked for our opinion, you and mr. rosenstein. >> i believe that was appropriate for me to say that because i think the president -- >> i'm just asking who asked you for your opinion? who asked you for your opinion.
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>> right. the president asked far our opinion. >> so you just testified as to the content of a communication -- >> that is correct, but i believe he's already revealed that. i believe i'm correct in saying that. that's why i indicated that when i answered that question. if he hasn't and i'm in error, i would have constricted his constitutional right of privilege, you're correct. >> you're being selective about the use -- >> no, i'm not intentionally. i'm doing so only because i believe he made that -- he's been public about that. >> -- the firing of james comey, did the question of the russia investigation ever come up? >> i can't answer that because it was a communication by the president, if any such occurred, it would be a communication that he has not waived. >> but he has not asserted executive privilege. >> he has not asserted executive privilege. >> do you believe the russians
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interfered with the 2016 election. >> i believe so. the intelligence community seems to be united in that. i have to tell you, senator king, i know nothing more than what i read in the paper. i've never received briefing on how a hacking occurred or how information was alleged to have influenced the campaign. >> there was a memorandum from the intelligence community on october 9th that detailed what the russians were doing. after the election, before the inauguration, you never sought any information about this rather dramatic attack on our country? >> no. >> you never asked for a briefing or attended a briefing or read the intelligence reports? >> you might have been very critical of me if i as an active part of the campaign was seeking intelligence related to something that might be relevant to the campaign. i'm not sure -- >> i'm not talking about the campaign. i'm talking about what the russians did. you received no briefing on the russian active measures in connection with the 2016
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election? >> no, i don't believe i ever did. >> let's go to your letter of may 9th. you said, based upon my evaluation and for the reasons expressed by the deputy. was that a written evaluation? >> my evaluation was an evaluation that had been going on for some months. >> is there a written evaluation? >> i did not make one. i think you could classify deputy attorney general rosenstein's memorandum as an evaluation, one that -- and he was the direct supervisor of the fbi director. >> and his evaluation was based 100% on the handling of the hillary clinton e-mails, is that correct? >> and a number of other matters, as i recall. but he did explicitly lay out the errors that he thought had been made in that process by the director of the fbi. i thought they were cogent and
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accurate and far more significant than i think a lot of people have understood. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator lankford. >> attorney general session, good to see you again. you speak as a man eager to set the record straight. you have spoken very plainly from the very beginning from your opening statements up to this time. i'm amazed of conversation, as if an attorney general have never said there are private conversations with the president and we don't need to discuss those, it seems to be a short memory about some of the statements eric holder would and would not make to any committee in the house or the senate and would or would not turn over documents even requested, they had to go all the way through the court system to finally the courts having to say, no, the president can't hold back documents and the attorney general can't do that. somehow, some accusation that you're not saying every conversation about everything, there's a long history of
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attorney generals standing beside the president saying there are some conversations that are confidential and can be determined from there. it does seem as well that every unnamed source, story, somehow gets a hearing. i was in the hearing this morning with rod rosenstein as we dealt with the appropriations request that originally you were scheduled to be out, that rod rosenstein was taking your place to be able to cover. he was very clear he was peppered with conversations about russia. during that conversation he was very clear that he has never had conversations with you about that and you have never requested conversations about that. he was also peppered with questions of the latest rumor of the day, that is, somehow the president is thinking about firing robert mueller and getting rid of him. it was very clear, that rosenstein said i'm the only one that could do that, and i'm not
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contemplating that. no one has any idea where the latest unnamed store source story is coming from. i do want to bring up a couple things specifically. one is to define the word recuse. i come back to your e-mail that you sent to jim comey and others that day on march 2nd. this is what you had said in your e-mail. after careful consideration following heat tinges with career department officials over the course of the past several weeks, the attorney general has decided to recuse himself from any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for president of the united states. the attorney general's recusal is not only with respect to such investigations, if any, but also extends to department's responses to congressional and media inquiries related to such investigations. is that something you have maintained from march 2nd on? >> absolutely. actually i maintained it from the first day i became attorney general. we discussed those matters and i
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felt until and if i ever made a decision to not recuse myself, i should not as abundance of caution, involve myself in studying the investigation or evaluating it, so i did not. i also would note that the memorandum from my chief of staff directs these agencies and one of the people directly it was sent to was james b. comey, the director of the fbi, you should instruct members of your staffs not to brief the attorney general or any other officials in the office of the attorney general about or otherwise involve the attorney general or other officials in the office of the attorney general in any such matters described above. we took the proper and firm and crystal clear position that the recusal meant recusal. >> relating to this april 27th
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meeting, non-meeting in the same room at the same time. the national interest was asked specifically about this as well, who was the host of that event. they stated this in writing, as the host -- the center for national interest decided whom to invite and issued the invitations. the trump campaign did not determine or approve the invitation list. guests included democrats and republicans with some supporting other candidates. most of the guests were washington-based foreign policy experts and journalists. senator invited russian ambassador kislyak and several other ambassadors to the speech. we rarely invite ambassadors. we seated all four in the front row in deference to their diplomatic status. the trump campaign had nothing to do with the seating arrangement. invited each to a short reception prior to the trump speech. the reception included approximately two dozen guests in a ef zooing line.
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the line moved quickly and any coversationses of mr. trump in that setting were inherently brief and could not be private. our recollection south korea the entinteraction between mr. trum and kislyak were pleasant tris. we're not aware of any coversationses with kislyak and sections at the reception. however, in a small group setting like this one, we consider it unlikely that anyone could have engaged in a meaningful private conversation without drawing attention from others present. do you have any reason to disagree with that? >> no. i think that's a very fair description of the reception situation. i'm appreciate them having made that statement. >> senator manchin. >> thank you, mr. attorney general for being here. >> thank you. >> i'm going to follow up on what senator king had. you and i have about the same vintage. we know during our lifetime we've never known the russian
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government or russian military to ever be our friend, and wanting the same things we wanted out of life. with that being said, the seriousness of this russian hacking is very serious to me and concerning. you're saying you had not been briefed on that. i think it was october 9th, the one that it was known that the o.d. and i at that time, i think mr. clapper and mr. jay johnson, homeland security, made that public what was going on. then on december 29th, president obama at that time expelled 35 russian diplomats, denied access to two russian-owned compounds and broadened the existing sanctions. sir, have you had any discussions or sat in on any type of meetings where recommendations were made to remove those sanctions? >> i don't recall any such
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meeting. >> during the time, not from the president being inaugurated on january 20th, prior to that in the campaign, up until and through the transition, was there ever any meetings or concern or just inquisitive of what the russians were really doing and if they had really done it? >> i don't recall any such conversation. i'm not sure i understood the question. maybe i better listen again. >> you were part of the national security team. if he would have heard something about russia and their capabilities with regard to what they can do with our election process, any conversations about that whatsoever? >> i don't recall it, senator manchin. >> i know it's been asked of you, your executive privileges and protecting the president. i understand that. also, when we had mr. comey here, he couldn't answer a lot of things in an open session. he agreed to go into a closed session? would you be able to go in a
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closed session? would it change your ability to speak more frankly on things we want to know? >> senator manchin, i'm not sure. the executive privilege is not waived by going in camera or in closed session. it may be that one of the concerns is that when you have an investigation on going as the special counsel does. it's often very problematic to have persons not cooperating with that counsel in the conduct of the investigation which may or may not be a factor in going into closed session. >> it would be very helpful, the committee has a lot of questions they'd like to ask. i know you would like to answer if possible. maybe we can check into that a little further. if i could, sir, did you have any other meetings with russian government officials that have not been previously disclosed? >> i have racked my brain and i
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do not believe so. i can assure you that none of those meetings discussed manipulating a campaign in the united states in any way, shape or form or any hacking or any such ideas. >> i'll go through this. any other meetings between russian government officials and any other trump campaign associates that have not been previously disclosed that you know of? >> i don't recall any. >> to the best of your knowledge, did any of the following individuals meet be russian officials at any point during the campaign? yes or no as i go down through the list. paul manafort. >> repeat that now? >> to the best of your knowledge, sir, did any of these following individuals meet with russian officials at any point during the campaign. and you can just say yes or no on this. paul manafort? >> i don't have any information that he had done so. he served as campaign chairman for a few months. >> steve bannon? >> i have no information that he did. >> general michael flynn?
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>> i don't recall it. >> reince priebus? >> i don't recall. >> steve miller. >> i don't recall him ever having such a conversation. >> corey lewandowski? >> i don't recall any of those individuals having any meeting with russian officials. >> carter page? >> i don't know. >> i would finally ask this question -- you have innate knowledge -- >> there may have been some published accounts of mr. page talking with russians, i'm not sure. i don't recall. >> as a former senator you bring a unique holistic perspective to this investigation because you've been on both sides. >> i have indeed. all in all, it's better on that side. >> if you were sitting on that side -- >> nobody gets to ask you about your private conversations with your staff. >> here we go. your chance to give us advice. if you were sitting on this side of the dias, what question would
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you be asking? i would be asking questions related to whether or not there was an impact on this election. >> what part of the story do you think we're missing? >> by a foreign power, particularly the suggss since the intelligence community has suggested and stated that they believe they did. but i do think members of this government have offices to run and departments to manage. the questions should be focused on that. >> is there a part of the story we're missing -- i'm sorry, mr. chairman. is there a part of the story we're missing? >> i don't know, because i'm not involved in the campaign and had no information concerning it, i have no idea at what stage it is. you members of the committee know a lot more than i. >> thank you, general sessions. >> general sessions, i will assure you we are very much focused on russia's involvement -- >> doesn't seem like it. >> our hope is as we complete this process, we will lay those facts out for the american people so they can make their own determinations as well.
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we're grateful for what you've done. senator cotton? >> i am on this side of the dias so i can say a simple question that should be asked is did donald trump or any of his associates in the campaign collude with russia and hacking those e-mails and releasing them through the public? that's where we started six months ago. we've heard from six of the eight democrats on this committee. to my knowledge, i don't think a single one of them asked that question. they've gone down lots of other rabbit trails, but not that question. maybe that is because jim comey said last week, as he said to donald trump, on three times he assured him he was not under investigation. maybe it's because multiple democrats on this committee have stated they have seen no evidence thus far after six months of our investigation and ten months -- 11 months of an fbi investigation of any such collusion. i would just suggest, what do we think happened at the mayflower?
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mr. sessions, are you familiar with what spies called trade dlooeft craft? >> a little bit. >> that involves things like covert communications and dead drops and brush passes, right? >> that is part of it. >> do you like spy fiction, john lick ray, daniel silva, jason. >> david ignatius. >> do you like jason borne or james bond movies? >> no. yes, i do. >> have you ever in any of these fantastical situations heard of a plot line so ridiculous that a sitti sitting united states senator and ambassador of a foreign government colluded at an open setting with hundreds of other people to pull off the greatest caper in the history of espionage? >> thank you for saying that, senator cotton. it's just like through the looking glass. i mean what is this? i explained how in good faith i
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said i had not met with russians because they were suggestions i as a surrogate had been meeting continuously with russians. i said i didn't meet with them. now, the next thing you know, i'm accused of some reception, plotting some sort of influence campaign for the american election. it's just beyond my capability to understand. i really appreciate, mr. chairman, the opportunity to at least be able to say publicly i didn't participate in that and know nothing about it. >> i gather that's one reason why you wanted to testify today in public. last week mr. comey and characteristic, dramatic and theatrical fashion alluded classically that there was intelligence that you might have colluded with russia or acted improperly. you've addressed those allegations today. do you understand why he made
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that allusion? >> actually, i do not. nobody has provided me information. >> thank you. i have a lot of questions. mr. blunt asked you if you had spoken in response to mr. comey's statement to you after his private meeting with the president on february 14th or february 15th. you said you did respond to mr. comey. mr. comey's testimony said you did not. do you know why mr. comey would have said you did not respond to him regarding that conversation of february 14th or 15th? >> i do not. there was a little conversation, not very long, but there was a conversation and i did respond to him, perhaps not to everything he asked, but he -- i did respond to him i think in an appropriate way. >> do you know why mr. comey mistrusted president trump from their first meeting on january 6th? you stated last week he did, but didn't state anything from that
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meeting that caused him to have such mistrust. >> i'm not able to speculate on that. >> let's turn to the potential crimes we know have happened, leaks of certain information. here is a short list of what i have. the contents of alleged transcripts of alleged conversations between mr. flynn and mr. kislyak, the contents of president trump's phone calls with australian and mexican leaders, the content of mr. trump's meetings with the russian foreign minister and the ambassador, the leak of manchester bombing suspect's identity and crime scene photos. last week, been 20 minutes of this committee meeting in a classified setting with jim comey, the leak of the basis of mr. comey's innuendo was. are these leaks serious threats to our national security, and is the department of justice taking them with the appropriate degree of seriousness in investigating and ultimately going to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law? >> thank you, senator cotton. we have had one sun sesful case
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very recently in georgia. that person has been denied bail, i believe, and is being held in custody. some of these leaks, as you well know, are extraordinary damaging to the united states security. we have got to restore a regular order principle. we cannot have persons in our intelligence agencies, investigative agencies or in congress leaking sensitive matte matters, and staff. i'm afraid this will result in -- is already resulting in investigations, and i fear some people may find that they wish they hadn't leaked. >> thank you, my time has expired. for the record, as stated earlier, the republican platform was weakened on the point of arms for ukraine. that's incorrect. it was actually strengthened. i would add it was the democratic president who refused
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requests to supply arms to ukraine. >> attorney general sessions, you have several times this afternoon prefaced your responses by saying to the best of your recollection. just on the first page of your three-pages of written testimony, you wrote nor do i recall, do not have recollection, do not remember it. my question is for any of your testimony today did you refresh your memory with any written documents, being calendar, written correspondence, e-mails, notes, anything of that sort? >> i tend to refresh my recollection, but so much of this is in a wholesale campaign of extraordinary nature that you're moving so fast that you don't keep fast. you meet people. i didn't keep notes of my conversation with the russian ambassador -- >> sir, i'd like to talk about -- >> i didn't keep notes on most of these things. >> will you provide this
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committee with the notes that you did maintain? >> as appropriate, i will supply the committee with documents. >> can you please tell me what you mean when you say appropriate? >> i would have to consult with lawyers in the department who know the proper procedure before disclosing documents that are held within the department of justice. i'm not able to make that opinion today. >> sir, i'm sure you prepared for this hearing today, and most of the questions that have been presented to you were predictable. so my question to you is did you then review with the lawyers of your department, if you as the top lawyer are unaware, what is law is regarding what you can share with us and what you cannot share with us, what is privileged and what is not privileged? >> we discussed the basic parameters of testimony. frankly have not discussed documentary disclosure rules. >> will you make a commitment to this committee that you will share any written
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correspondence, be they your calenders, records, notes, e-mails or anything that has been reduced at any point in time in writing to this committee where legally -- you actually have an obligation to do so? >> i'll commit to reviewing the rules of the department and as -- and when that issue is raised, to respond appropriately. >> did you have any communications with russian officials for any reason during the campaign that have not been disclosed in public or to this committee? >> i don't recall it. but i have to tell you, i cannot testify to what was said as we were standing at the republican convention before the podium where i spoke. >> my question is only -- >> i have no memory of that. >> did you have any communication with any russian businessmen or any russian nationals? >> i don't believe i had any
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conversation with russian businessmen or russian nationals. >> are you aware of any communications -- >> a lot of people were at the convention it's conceivable -- >> sir, i have just a few -- if i don't qualify it, you'll accuse me of lying. i'm trying to be as correct as i can. i don't like to be rushed this fast. it makes me nervous. >> are you aware of any conversations that trump campaign officials and associates, that they had with russian officials or any russian nationals? >> i don't recall that. >> and are you aware -- >> at this moment. >> are you aware of any communications with any trump officials or did you have any communications with any officials about russia or russian interest in the united states before january 20th? >> no. i may have had some conversations, and i think i did, with the general strategic
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concept of the possibility of whether or not russia and the united states could get on a more harmonious relationship and move off the hostility. the soviet union did, in fact, collapse. it's really a tragic strategic event. >> thank you. >> -- that we're not able to get along better. >> before being sworn in as attorney general, how did you typically communicate with then candidate or president-elect trump? >> would you repeat that? >> before you were sworn in as attorney general, how did you typically communicate with then candidate or president-elect trump? >> i did not submit written memoranda, didn't make formal communications. >> did you ever communicate in writing? >> i don't believe so. >> you referred to a long-standing doj policy. can you tell us what policy it is you're talking about? >> i think most cabinet people,
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as the witnesses before you earlier, those individuals declined to comment because we're all about conversations with the president -- >> i'm asking about the doj policy you referred to. >> -- policy that goes beyond just the attorney general. >> is that policy in writing somewhere? >> i think so. >> did you not consult it before you came before this committee knowing we would ask you questions about it? >> we talked about it. the policy -- >> did you ask that it be shown to you? >> the policy is based on the principle that the president -- >> sir, i'm not asking about the principal. >> i'm unable to answer the questions. >> you would rely on that policy, did you not ask your staff to show you the policy that would be the basis for you refusing to answer the majority of questions that have been asked to you. >> the attorney general woushou be allowed to answer the question. >> the chair will control the
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hearing. senator, let him answer. >> we talked about it. and the principle at stake is someone i have appreciation for having spent 15 years in department of justice, 12 as united states attorney. that is that the constitution provides the head of the executive branch certain privileges and members -- one of them is confidentiality of communications. and it is improper for any departments in the executive branch to waive that privilege without a clear approval of the president. >> mr. chairman -- >> that's the situation. >> i asked mr. sessions for a yes or so. >> the answer is yes, i consulted. >> the senator's time expired. senator cornyn. >> attorney general sessions, former director comey's letter to fbi employees when he was terminated started this way.
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he said i've long believed a president can fire an fbi director for any reason or no reason at all. do you agree with that? >> yes, and i think that was good for him to say because i believe we're going to have a new and excellent fbi director, a person who is smart discipline with integrity and proven judgment that would be good for the bureau. i think that statement probably was a valuable thing for director comey to say, and i appreciate that he did. >> just to reiterate, the timeline of your recusal and the rosenstein memo, and recommended it for the termination of director comey, you recused from the russian investigation on march 2nd, correct? >> the formal recusal took place on that date. >> the letter you wrote
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forwarding the rosenstein memo to the president as a basis for director comey's termination was dated may 9th. a couple months after you recused from the russian investigation, correct? >> i believe that's correct. >> so isn't it true that the russian investigation did not factor into the -- your recommendation to fire director comey? >> that is correct. >> the memorandum written by the deputy attorney general, your letter to the president forwarding that recommendation didn't mention russia at all. is that your recollection? >> that is correct. >> so let's review what the basis was of deputy attorney general rosenstein's recommendation. he wrote in his memo on may 9th, he said i cannot defend the director's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of secretary clinton's e-mails,
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and i do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken. of course, he's talking about director comey. he went on to say the director -- that was director comey at the time -- was wrong to usurp the attorney general's authority on july 5th, 2016. you'll recall that was the date of the press conference he held. he went on to say that the fbi director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the justice department. finally he said, compounding the error, the director ignored another longstanding principle, that we do not hold press conferences to release director information about the subject of a declined criminal investigati investigation. in fact, there's written policy
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from the department of justice, is there not, entitled election year sensitivities. are you familiar with the prohibition of the justice department making announcements or taking other actions that might interfere with the normal elections? >> i'm generally familiar with that. the holder memo after my time in the department. there's always been rules about it though. >> let me read just an excerpt from a memo from the attorney general, march 9, 2012, entitled election year sensitivities. it says law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of effecting any election or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate. such a purpose is inconsistent with the department's mission
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and principles of federal prosecution. do you agree with that? >> essentially, yes. >> so what essentially the deputy attorney general said is that former director comey violat violated department of justice, when he announced secretary clinton was careless with e-mail and went on to release derogatory information including his conclusion that she was extremely careless, but yet went on to say no reasonable prosecutor would prosecute her. that is not the role of the fbi director, is it? that's a job for the prosecutors at the department of justice. that's what was meant by deputy attorney general meant when he said director comb pee usurped the role of the prosecutors,
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correct? >> that is correct. former attorney general bill barr wrote an op ed recently in which he said he assumed that attorney general lynch to urge comey to make this announcement so she wouldn't have to do it. in fact, it appears she did it without her approval totally, and that is a pretty stunning thing -- it is a stunning thing and it violates fundamental powers. and then when he reaffirmed that the rightness he believed of his decision on may 3rd, i think it w was, that was additional confirmation that the director's thinking was not clear. >> senator reed. >> thank you very much, chairman. first a point, attorney general. senator heinrich and others have
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raised the issue of longstanding rules. if there are written rules to this effect, would you provide them to the committee, please? >> i will. >> senator cornyn made the point that the whole substance of your recommendation to the president president to dismiss director comey was his unprofessional conduct with respect to the clinton administration, is that correct? >> i supported everything that the deputy attorney general put in his memoranda as good an important of factors to use in determining whether or not he had conducted himself in a way that justified continuing in office. i think it pretty well peeks for itself. the discussion was a bipartisan discussion and began in election time. democrats were very unhappy
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about the way he conducted himself and in retrospect, i think it was more egregious. >> general, if i may, i don't want to cut you off. >> i'm sorry. >> excuse me. on july seventh when mr. comey made his first announcement about the case, you were on fox news and you said first of all director comey is a skilled former prosecutor and then you concluded by saying essentially that it's not his problem, it's hillary clinton's problem. then in november on november 6th after mr. comey again made news in late october by reopening the investigation, you said again on fox news, fbi director comey did the right thing when he found new evidence. he had no choice but to report it to the american congress where he under oath testified.
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the investigation was over. this investigation ongoing now i'm sure he wouldn't have announced that. in july and november, director comey was doing exactly the right thing. you had no criticism of him and felt that in fact he was a skilled professional prosecutor and felt his last statement in october was fully justified. how can you go from those statements to agreeing with mr. rosenstein and asking the president for recommending he be fired? >> i think in retrospect as all of us begin to lock at that clearly and talk about it as perspectives of the department of justice, once the director at our first got involved and embroiled in a public discussion of this investigation which
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would have been better never to have been discussed publicly and said it was over, then when he found new evidence that came up, i think he probably was required to tell dhang it wasn't over. new evidence had been developed. it would have been better and consistent with the rules of the department of justice to never have talked about the investigation to begin with. once you get down that road, that's the kind of thing you get into. that went against classical prosecuting policies that i learned and was taught when i was a united states attorney and assistant united states attorney. >> if i may ask another question. your whole premises in recommending to the president was the actions involving secretary of state clinton and the whole clinton controversy.
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did you feel misled when the president announced his real reason for dismissing mr. comey was the russian investigation? >> i am not able to characterize that fact. i wouldn't try to comment on that. >> you had no inkling there was anything to do with russia until the president of the united states basically declared not only on tv, but in the oval office to the russian foreign minster saying the pressure is off now, i got rid of that nut job. that came as a complete surprise some. >> all i can say is that our recommendation was put in writing and i believe it was correct. i believe the president valued it, but how he made his decision was his process. >> you had no inkling that he was considering the russia investigation.
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>> i'm not going to try to guess. >> that's fair. there is a scenario in which this recapitulation was a story that the president tried to put out and he quickly abandoned and his real reason was russia investigation which had been the case and i suspect you would have included yourself from any involvement. thank you. >> senator mccain. >> over the last few weeks, the administration has characterized your previously undisclosed meetings with russian ambassador as meetings you took in your official capacity as u.s. senator and a member of the senate armed services committee. as chairman, let me ask you a few questions about that. at the meetings, did you raise
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concerns about russian invasion of ukraine or annexation of crimea in. >> i did, senator mccain and i would like to follow occupy that. that's one of the meetings or issues that i recall explicitly. the day before my meeting with the russian ambassador, i met with the ukrainian ambassador and heard his concerns about russia. i raised those with him and he gave as you can imagine, not one inch. everything they did the rugs had done according to him was correct and i remember pushing back on it and it was testy on that subject. >> i can't imagine that with you on the committee. >> the violence against his citizens.
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>> i don't remember whether that was discussed or not. >> did you raise interference in the electoral process or of our allies? >> i don't recall that being discussed? . >> if you spoke with him in your capacity as a member of the armed services committee, you presumably talked about russia-related security issues that you have demonstrated as important to you as a member of the committee. >> did i discuss security issues? >> i don't recall you as being particularly vocal on such issues. >> repeat that, senator cane. i'm sorry. >> the whole russia related security issue as a member of the committee. did you raise those with him? >> in other words, russian-related security issues as the chairman of the forces,
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what security issues did you hold the hearings on or demonstrate a keen interest in? >> we may have discussed that. i don't have a real recall of the meeting. i was basically willing to meet and see what he discussed. >> his response was? >> i don't recall. >> during the 2016 campaign season, did you have contacts with any representative including american lobbyists or any company within or outside the capacity as a member of congress to remember the armed services committee? >> i don't believe so. >> they reported in the middle of the elections they found that russian diplomats whose travel was supposed to have gone missing and some wandered around
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the desert and traveled around kansas and reportedly sources concluded that after about a year of inattention these movements indicate one that was more brazen and how the government agency is responding to it. >> we need to do more. i am worried about it. we see that from other nations with these technological skills like china and the other nations that are penetrating our business interest and our national security interest. as a member of the armed service committee, i did support and advocate and i think you supported legislation that is
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ongoing that requires the defense department to identify weaknesses and how we can fix them. i would say in my short tenure, i have been more concerned about computer hacking and those issues than was at the senate. it's an important issue. you are correct. >> the russian post reported yesterday russia has developed a cyber weapon that can disrupt the power grades and telecommunications infrastructure. this is similar to what the hackers used to disrupt the electrical grid in 2015. can you discuss a little bit in open session how serious that is? >> i don't believe i can discuss the technological issues other than to say it is very disturbing that the russians
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continue to push hostile actions in their foreign policy. it is not good for the united states or the world or russia in my opinion. >> do we have a strategy to counter these ever increasing threats to our national security and way of life? >> not sufficiently. we don't have a sufficient strategy dealing with technological and it penetrations of our system. i truly believe it's more important than i ever did before. i appreciate your concern and leadership on that issue. all of congress is going have to do better. >> time is expired. the chair recognizes the vice chair. >> and thank you, mr. chairman and general sessions. thank you. i appreciate your last comments with senator mccain about the
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seriousness of this threat. it's why so many of us are concerned when the question of russian intervention, the president continues to refer to it it as a witch hunt and fake news and no recognition of the seriousness of this threat. i share and i think most members share the concession that the russians massively interfered and want to continue to interfere not to favor one party or another, but their own interests. we to very how they take that on. comments have been made about how we had in terms of the trump associates who may have had contacts with russians. we have not gotten to all of that yet because of the unprecedented firing of the fbi director that was leading this same russia investigation that
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superseded the activity. the members that i hope will pursue the very troubling amount of smoke at least that is out there between individuals that were affiliated with the campaign and possible ties with russians. we have to pursue that. final comment and understand your point, but you have to -- there were a series of comments made by mr. comey last week. i think members on this side of the aisle indicated you understand executive privilege and understand classified setting and i think we need as the senator indicated if there are these long standing written procedures about this ability to have another category to protect the conversations with the president, we would like to get a look at them. we need to find out in light of the contradiction, at the end of
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the day, this is not only what i said the last time. not about relitigating. about finding out what happened and about potential ties and on a foreign basis, making sure the russians are not finished and in terms of action tididn't end an we have to be prepared. thank you. >> mr. chairman, one brief comment, if you mind. i do want to say that a change at the top of the fbi should have no impact on the investigation. they will work and continue to work and have not been altered in any way. >> there were a number of strange cut and comments that mr. comey testified that you could have shed light on. thank you, sir. >> general segs, thank you for your willingness to be here.
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he made us regret that we don't have intramural basketball team. >> he's a good round ball player. >> you have been asked a wide range of questions. i think you have answered things related to claims about the meeting at the may flower and around reasons of your recusal and the fact that you had never been briefed since day one on the investigation. you mead clear that you can't think of any other conversations that you had with russian officials. you covered in detail the conversation thyou had with director comey after his private meeting with the president.
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just to name a few things. there were several questions that you chose not to answer because of confidentiality with the president. i would only ask you at the white house to see if any areas of questions that they feel comfortable with you answering and if they do, you provide those answers in writing to the committee. i would also be remiss to remind you that the documents that you can provide for the committee, they would be helpful for the purposes of sorting timelines and anything that substantiates your testimony today. you are familiar with that and it would be extreme ly continuig dialogue with us as we might need to ask additional questions
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as we go further down the investigation that certainly on the public hearing. it may be an exchange in the dialogue we had. you helped us tremendously and we are grateful to you and mary for the unbelievable sacrifice you made in this institution, but also now in this administration. this hearing is now adjourned. >> attorney general jeff sessions testifying before the senate intelligence committee. seven minutes after 5:00 on the east coast that puts us into chuck todd's hour with "meet the press" and we have our guests and experts. we will do a quick round of reaction starting with nicole wallace and a two-prong question. how do you think the attorney general did and what is your question going back to the top of his testimony and the gop convention in cleveland some. >> two people got at the heart of the picture part of


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